Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Are a film critic's Tweets fair game for advertising blurbs?

On Twitter, Adland's @kidsleepy shared an interesting new phenomenon: Tweets as ads!

Pictured above, according to PFSK, is a full-page ad in the New York Times that consisted of nothing but NYT film critic A. O. Scott's Tweet about the soundtrack to the recent Coen Brothers film, Inside Llewyn Davis.

While quoting critics from mainstream media is fair sport, PFSK points out that social media is different:
What makes this new reverse-engineered advertising so interesting is that if Scott did not give permission for his tweet to be included in the ad, CBS Films may have violated Twitter’s “Use of Content” guidelines. The guidelines stipulate that “without explicit permission of the original content creator, Twitter content may not be used in advertising.”
There's even more to it than that. It's actually modified from the original Tweet, which read "You all keep fighting about Wolf of Wall St. and Am Hustle. I'm gonna listen to the Llewyn Davis album again. Fare thee well, my honeys."

Now, it seems, this was not even a case of accidental violation. NYT Editor Margaret Sullivan revealed that when the movie’s publicist, Cynthia Swartz, contacted Mr. Scott directly to ask permission to use the quote in an ad, his e-mail response was:
Well this is a new one. I’d prefer though that my tweets not be used in advertisements. That seems like a slippery slope and contrary to the ad hoc and informal nature of the medium. 
And changing the tweet is basically manufacturing a quote, something I avoid. 
So I’m afraid the answer is no.
Nonetheless, the ad went ahead. One of the film’s producers, Scott Rudin, was the one who asked the publicist to use the Tweet. He told Ms. Sullivan, “If a critic is going to tweet it, we’re free to use it,” he said. “We’re free to edit any review. We pull out what we want.” Also,  “The paper running the ad is a tacit approval of the content of the ad... They took our money and they ran the ad." He also said the placement cost CBS Films $70, 000.

So who is at fault here? A spokeswoman for the newspaper said that its advertising staff were unaware of Mr. Scott’s objections and would have handled it differently had they known. The advertiser broke the rules of Twitter and trust of a critic. And the critic learned a lesson about unintended consequences of social media.

Ms. Sullivan concludes:
In the end, nothing terrible happened here. But it’s a moment that, at the very least, ought to cause some internal discussion at The Times and the establishing of clear rules and practices.
What do you think?

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