advertising and other stuff. no, really.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Wheaties owns you. But then, so do most brands.

Wheaties is America.

Fine, upstanding athletes embodying this country’s best traditions of hard work and sacrifice. So it’s understandable they’d want to maintain that aura throughout all their communications. Except, the disclaimer on their Facebook feels like the last thing it does is promote open discussion. Sure, you want to bounce troublemakers, but there’s also such a thing as being too uptight.

Most social media *war room* strategies now include ”What if” scenarios for dealing with them, but legal needs to take a step back from sounding so heavy-handed. (As for fun in communities, I know of no online community that you could ever consider fun.) Does anyone have fun on Twitter? I have fun with it maybe.

One part though highlights the current state of affairs relative to the ownership of ideas:

“...we (Wheaties, General Mills and its affiliates) own everything you post and can do whatever we want with it.”

This bugs me the most; always has. This idea that they can make money off someone without compensation. Problem is, consumers and people in general have this sense of empowerment now when it comes to how they express their feelings for brands. Consumer-generated content has definitely helped enable them in this regard, and you only have to type in •contest* at the Wild West of YouTube to see, or even check my past rants here.

If social media was all about *conversations* between brands and their audience, the next front in the war is going to be over the control of ideas between content creators and their audience. Why should any brand own everything you do just because you shared it with them, let alone profit from it?

Doesn’t this parallel what people are complaining about now with having to cede access to their personal information on sites like Facebook? That because I sign up, the site has a right to do with my info what they will?

Industry publications and conferences love to focus on coming up with ever-changing proprietary vocabularies describing the conversation process online. Others argue over who owns what discipline in an agency, and still others debate what the agency of the future might look like.

What’s overlooked from what I can tell though is this monopoly by agencies and brands on just who controls ideas and who has access to them.

Think a brand would ever take a spot their agency produced and run it in other media channels without first working out the rights? Not a chance. So why then do they have the right to screw the general public?

I *get* the idea of unsolicited material opening up a brand or agency to a potential lawsuit, but this isn’t about that. I also know how this cuts off the nose to spite the face, as agencies depend on being able to shut other shops out of the running for work.

But if brand rhetoric about conversation and consumers as *partners* who help shape the experience is to really mean something, then most *partners* don’t try and cheat the other out of fair compensation. Much as I give them crap, I call it both ways because Pepsi in effect is rewriting this concept with their Refresh project.

Agencies might also say that *regular* folk could never come up with the campaigns they say a brand really needs, and that an agency was behind Pepsi’s effort here. Maybe, but if things don’t change, how will they know?

Enjoy the run gang because things are changing.

(The entire disclaimer below for your reading pleasure. Typo, theirs.)

“The Wheaties Facebook page is a fun community where fans of sports and the Breakfast of Champions can interact with each other.

The Wheaties team is excited by this opportunity to interact with fans who are as intense about their passions as we are. That being said, it is important to note that the Wheaties fan postings to the Wheaties Facebook page are not representative of the opinions of Wheaties or General Mills. Furthermore, we do not confirm their accuracy.

Wheaties expects that fans will not post content that falls into the following categories and reserves the right to remove postings that are:

• Abusive, defamatory, or obscene.
• Fraudulent, deceptive or misleading.
• In violation of any intellectual property right of another.
• In violation of any law or regulation.
otherwise inappropriate.

We can choose to not allow (or remove) any posting at any time. Please let us know if you feel some posting ought to be removed. By all means, read at your own risk and do not rely on any information or advice in any of these postings.

Recognize that we (Wheaties, General Mills and its affiliates) own everything you post and can do whatever we want with it, including copying or modifying it for use elsewhere in any manner whatsoever, forever, worldwide, and without compensation. Any ideas you submit (including about products or advertising) become our property.”

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