Blurred Lines -- When Your Tweet Becomes An Ad
January 21, 2014
The social space has created truly inventive marketing, which has also created a haze over the casual thoughts we post, tweet or even "snap" today. Is what we say socially really fair game for brands to use in ads, even without our consent?
This cautionary tale about the long tail of social media occurred earlier this year when a (modified) tweet from New York Times movie critic, Tony Scott, known as "@aoscott" on Twitter, was used as an ad by CBS Films, hoping to attract Academy voters.
It started when Scott – who was not officially reviewing (or endorsing) the movie "Inside Llewyn Davis" – was just randomly tweeting about the movie's soundtrack.
Here is Scott's original tweet:
When a rep from CBS Films saw the tweet, the publicist for "Inside Llewyn Davis" emailed Scott for permission to use a shortened version in an ad in the Times. (She proposed changing the tweet because the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences states ads cannot appear to criticize competitors.)
Scott turned down the offer, citing that the use of his tweets (as a movie critic) in advertisements seems like a "slippery slope." Also, adjusting the tweet would be like "manufacturing a quote" – so, no.
But to Scott's surprise, CBS Films apparently took his "No" as a "Go" because a week later, he woke up to a full page ad in the Times with CBS Films' pitching "Inside Llewyn Davis" for "Best Picture."
Here's the digital version:
Twitter's Terms Of Service states: "In all cases, without explicit permission of the original content creator, Twitter content may not be used in advertising or to imply endorsement of any product or service." And yet CBS Films felt confident enough to run with it – even though the author declined.
And as of print time, Twitter has yet to comment on this matter. (Although it would be fun if Twitter would tweet CBS Films a link to their Terms of Service.)
Using a fan's social content in advertising isn't new – in fact, I've helped a few Jacobs Media clients showcase listener tweets in Promoted Tweets on Twitter.
Promoted Tweets are ordinary tweets purchased by advertisers and clearly labeled (see below):
The difference is that we always get consent from the fan.
What CBS Films did was a combination of brilliant and alarming, running Scott's quote in an ad but without consent.
The rules for how brands can use our data and social content are so undefined, in spite of any social outlet's Terms of Service. For public personalities and entertainment brands, let this serve as a simple reminder that the spirit of the words you tweet can be altered at any moment to fit into someone's savvy advertising – even your competitors.
This is also an indication that brands will continue to take and foster fan content in marketing and live events to new levels in order to stand out.
So thinking before you tweet may not be enough anymore.
And if your brand showcases fans in marketing pieces - avoid dishonor - get consent. It's not worth complicating a relationship between the brand and the fan – and it's certainly not worth any potential legal wrangling.
Not everyone is going to be as cool as Tony Scott – who gave his take on this "mini scandal" for the Times . This paragraph says it all about the role of social media – and its impact on those of us in the media:
"Like many of my colleagues, I was driven to Twitter by two complementary forces: my vanity and my boss. I've regarded it as a clubhouse, a research tool and a venue for unloading surplus opinion. It has never really seemed like a private place, and I try to behave there more or less the way I do in the newspaper, refraining from swearing or expressing political opinions and keeping my crazier thoughts to myself. Which I suppose makes the thoughts I do express there fair game for the same kind of treatment as all my other published thoughts. They can be appropriated, parodied, parroted, misquoted and ignored. The last option is a writer's greatest nightmare of course, but it can also be a source of comfort."
You've been warned.
Reach out to me anytime on Twitter @lorilewis.
Please enjoy MERGE archives here.