Brazil: Rolling Stone and the Marketing Hackers

Rolling Stone vs. Blogs

One of the more dynamic segments in the Brazilian blogosphere is that of the marketing blogs. Stirred by a local advertising industry that regularly tops the most prestigious creative awards, and by the promise of interesting job posts at the big agencies, many young talented internauts are exploring blogging tools as a way to participate in the lively conversation focused on the content of marketing and advertisement campaigns. This particular setting was shaken last week by what at first seemed to be just another saucy new campaign fueling the debate, but later turned into a ‘cease and desist’ charge from Rolling Stone magazine over the use of its logo by some Brazilian blogs displaying pieces of what was supposed to be the magazine's new marketing campaign. The case has puzzled local bloggers as Rolling Stone has recently launched a Portuguese edition of the worldly famous magazine in Brazil, and an apparently unreasoned attack on blogs would surely not be a proper approach to promote the brand locally. But some rough edges in the message delivered by the ‘coexist‘ campaign, developed by the Brazilian agency DM9DBB and recently published [leaked?] by many blogs in different countries, can be the cause of the overreaction displayed by the magazine headquarters.

Me admira uma revista que se diz tão antenada, jovem, rebelde, moderna e blábláblá, resolva ameaçar um blog por “uso não autorizado de seu logo”. Até porque, eu não fiz uso nenhum. Quem fez foram outros. Não quero fazer o velho discurso de “internet: uma terra sem lei”, todos sabemos que não é bem assim. Mas será que o pessoal da Wenner Media acredita mesmo que será capaz de controlar e proibir a propagação de informações? Bem, vão nessa pessoal, desejo boa sorte, porque vocês terão um trabalho árduo pela frente. Eu, como não tenho cacife para enfrentar esses tiranossauros, irei tarjar o logo deles no post: Rolling Stone | Coexist. (ainda estou pensando se irei mesmo) Abaixo, um trecho do e-mail que recebi da Rolling Stone agora pouco. Logo agora, que estava pensando em assinar a versão nacional da revista. Fica pra próxima.
I am writing to advise you that the use of our logo in these images is unauthorized. The logo is a registered trademark of Rolling Stone LLC of which the unauthorized use of our logo appears in these images.
Rolling Stone ameaça blogsBrainstorm#9

I am admired by the fact that such a tuned in, youthful, rebellious, modern and blabla magazine decides to threat a blog for the ‘non-authorized use of their logo’. In fact I have made no use at all. Others did it. I don't want to get back to the old line of the ‘Internet as a lawless land’, as we all know that this is not the way things are. But do these guys at Werner Media really believe they will succeed in controlling and prohibiting the dissemination of information on the web? Well, go ahead folks, I wish good luck as you've got a hard task ahead. As I don't have the backbone to face those tyrannosaurs, I will cover their logo in the post: Rolling Stone | Coexist. (I am still thinking if I will really do it). Below, a piece of the e-mail I received from Rolling Stone a few moments ago. Funny that it all happened right when I was starting to think about subscribing the magazine's Portuguese edition. I will pass it for now.
“I am writing to advise you that the use of our logo in these images is unauthorized. The logo is a registered trademark of Rolling Stone LLC of which the unauthorized use of our logo appears in these images”.
Rolling Stone ameaça blogsBrainstorm#9

Revista Rolling Stone, onde tudo coexiste (inclusive Revolução e Hipocrisia)aletp

The content of this post was censored by the Rolling Stone magazine. According to them, the advertisement pieces posted here were violating the use of the Rolling Stone brand (their opinion, of course). I've talked with the folks at the legal department here at the agency. They initially asked me not to hide the brand on the pieces, displaying the images partially, and then told me to take the images down, but I am still waiting for a final answer about what to do. I've got a recent call and it seems that I have not violated any copyright law related to Rolling Stone's brand. I will post them back if this information gets confirmed. In my view, I just divulged the creative work of the agency that developed the pieces.
Revista Rolling Stone, onde tudo coexiste (inclusive Revolução e Hipocrisia)aletp

Ambos os sítios já meteram a boca no trobone (Alept e Brainstorm#9) acusando a Revista, cuja campanha lembra em muito as imagens de outra campanha polêmica da empresa italiana Benneton na década de oitenta, de censura. Não é censura: é ameaça. Quanto ao seu teor, reproduzido parcialmente pela Brainstorm, me parece inteiramente equivocado ao reclamar acerca do uso de sua marca. Os blogs não estão se utilizando para si, ou com intuito de lucro, das marcas da empresa. Ao contrário divulgam uma campanha por ela realizada, atribuindo, inclusive, méritos pela sua qualidade.
Rolling Stone vs. BlogsDireito e Trabalho

Both the sites have already exposed the case (Alept e Brainstorm#9) accusing the magazine of censorship. [The present campaign reminds us of a similar controversial campaign from the Italian company Benneton back in the 80's] But it is not censorship: it is intimidation. About the message's content, partially disclosed by Brainstorm, it seems to me totally wrong to charge the blogs for the use of the brand. The blogs were not using the brand in their favor, or for commercial purposes. On the contrary, they were promoting the magazine's campaign, positively commenting about the pieces’ quality.
Rolling Stone vs. BlogsDireito e Trabalho

We could say that the overblown reaction
of the magazine is becoming a pattern and, according to Ethan Zuckerman, people are throwing words like “libel” and “trademark infringement” around a great deal lately. In many cases, people are invoking legal threats to prevent content they find objectionable from spreading. This is a form of censorship and it creates a chilling effect – people start writing in such a way that they avoid certain topics and subjects for fear of receiving legal threats. But digging deeper in this case we find out that while the marketing blogs in Brazil were still clueless about what caused the magazine's reaction, other groups across the web were already stirred up by some elements contained in ‘coexist‘ campaign's message.

A campanha criada pela DM9DDB é realmente diferente com imagens chocantes e inusitadas. Em uma pequena tarja estão os textos (são 5 anúncios diferentes) que traduzem de forma surpreendente a imagem dos anúncios. Um deles em especial retrata claramente Michael Jackson segurando a mão de um menor de idade, ou falando bem francamente, de uma criança. Acompanhado do texto: “Rolling Stone. Onde música e sexo coexistem”, soa pesado o contexto. Na minha opinião, a campanha escorrega nesse anúncio. Dá um tom amoral, lembrarmos da história recente deste astro e nos instiga a repudiar, por alguns instantes, a peça. Mas em contraponto chama muita atenção e com certeza transmite a mensagem desejada.
Polêmica, informativa e ousada a revista e a campanha da ”Rolling Stone”Os Universitários

The campaign created by DM9DDB is really different, with shocking and unusual images. A little label contains the texts (there are 5 different pieces) that in a surprising way express the ad's images. One of them clearly pictures Michael Jackson holding the hand of a minor, or speaking frankly, a child. Follows the text: “Rolling Stone. Where music and sex coexist”, the context sounds heavy. In my opinion, the campaign slides off in this piece. It adds an amoral tone, and reminding of this star's recent history leads us to sometimes spurn the piece for a while. But as a counterpoint, it surely calls lots of attention and surely delivers the desired message.
Polêmica, informativa e ousada a revista e a campanha da ”Rolling Stone”Os Universitários

The picture in the heart of this polemic is the one of “The Gloved One” that implicitly incriminates Mr. Michael Joseph Jackson. Even if there is no explicit message on that picture (no name, no face) any one all around the world knows that “The Gloved One” especially with sequined glove is Michael Jackson, and that is also why you used it. No need to be “fan” of the entertainer to see the tacit allusion made to the man. It’s totally different to make fun with some one concerning his appearance his mania and deliberately trying to hurt him and to compromise him. Is it necessary to remind you that this man has been cleared by the American Justice after almost two years of procedure investigation and dissection of his personal life? Even if he is “The” Michael Jackson, he is still a man and a father of three children. We would also like to remind you that the Rolling Stone Magazine has benefited on Mr. Jackson ever since issue #81 4/29/1971 saying : « Why does this eleven year old stay up past his bedtime ? » Since then you have used Mr. Jackson many times to build up your magazine and money and might I add, created many fans. However, this is going too far and you are accusing a human being of something that he has fairly been cleared of by the American Justice.
Sign Petition Against Rollong Stone AdvertisementsMichael Jackson The King of Pop

There are some pieces
in the puzzle leading us to think that maybe the campaign leaked from the awarded DM9DDB agency to the marketing blogs before being totally approved by Rolling Stone. The ‘cease and desist’ letter sent to the Brazilian bloggers by the magazine headquarters was the first, custom 1.0 reaction. Other blogs publishing the campaign images were now being notified through comments signed by a DM9DBB's VP and posted as below.

To whom it may concern;
The material showed in this website was not approved by the client or by DDB Brasil. It is not an actual campaign, and was never aired anywhere. The agency did no approve the submittal of this material to this site, nor to any other internet site or blog. This material was wrongly submitted by an unauthorized person, without our knowledge. We are requesting the immediate removal of this material.
Estácio Gonzaga de Sá
CFO and Executive VP
DDB Brazil
Comentário em Rolling StonePubAddict

Prestes a alcançar a maioridade, a DM9DDB é uma das cinco maiores agências em faturamento do Brasil e uma das mais criativas do mundo. Três vezes Agência do Ano no Festival Internacional de Cannes – a última delas em 2005, como Cyber Agency of the Year – e seis vezes eleita a “Agência do Ano” do Prêmio Caboré, eleição na qual os próprios profissionais brasileiros escolhem seus melhores, sua trajetória começa em São Paulo, em 1989.
Quem somosDM9DDB

On the eve of reaching its majority, DM9DBB is one of the five biggest agencies in revenue in Brazil and is among the more creative in the world. Three times elected the Agency of The Year in the Cannes International Festival — the last time was in 2005, as the Cyber Agency of the Year — and six times received the Caboré Prize as “Agency of the Year”, in an election where the Brazilian professionals chose their best ones. Its journey starts in 1989.
Quem somosDM9DDB

We should raise
the question: is there any chance that the original images of the ‘coexist‘ campaign will someday disappear from the web? I am ready to bet against it. But I'd really like to know if the campaign was in any way ‘submitted [to the web] by an unauthorized person’ or if it in fact was approved, divulged, and then rejected later by the magazine when the Michael Jackson crowd reacted. In any case, the blogosphere once again somehow hacked a process that would otherwise be eclipsed by corporate walls. After all, it would be nice to see if there is real people behind the brand and the world view promoted by the Rolling Stone magazine as showed by the campaign pieces developed by DM9DBB, and also if these people do have something to say about the whole thing. Are they ready to show up in the blogosphere?

PS: I would like to say that the term ‘Marketing Hacker’ is dear to me as the name of an old blog edited by a good friend and also great Brazilian blogger, Hernani Dimantas. I am sure he would disagree with the context where I am using the term, but disagreeing with HD is one of the most interesting practices as we always have the chance to reach higher levels of understading. That's why I [always] take the risk. Long live to the ‘Marketing Hackers’.

1 comment

  • […] Update: O engajado sítio de defesa da liberdade de expressão, o Global Voices Online elaborou um minucioso artigo acerca do caso. Vale à pena ler e mais: acompanhar os assuntos ali discutidos, uma vez que a liberdade de expressão é um pré-requisito para a liberdade dos povos. […]

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