Thursday, June 14, 2018

Influencer Marketing: Trendy, Effective, and Potentially Deceptive Under Section 5 of the FTC Act

Influencer marketing has become an attractive prospect for companies seeking to advertise to younger generations and social media users.

Today’s consumers have many options to avoid the traditional platforms used by advertisers: streaming music helps consumers avoid radio commercials, streaming television prevents exposure to television commercials, ad blockers help to avoid advertisements online, and upgrade options on media providers such as Hulu, Spotify, and YouTube disable most of the advertising on those platforms. As more consumers are exercising their ability to “turn off” advertisements from their lives, advertisers are perilously trying to adapt.

Here is where the influencer comes in. From the Instagram model to the YouTube star, influencers, or social media users with significant followings on social media, have the unique ability to “influence” their followers. Influencers run the gamut from makeup artists to fitness gurus, from world travelers to gamers. Advertisers have been keen to explore this medium of advertising and are spending millions on influencer marketing each month. Indeed, many influencers can command thousands of dollars per post. 

While influencer marketing may feel like a foreign concept to many, it emerged from the recognizable celebrity endorsement. Social media has made the status of “celebrity” or “public figure” significantly more accessible and those same social media platforms provide a way for influencers to directly engage with their followers. Advertisers, in turn, are happy to provide free products or a sponsorship to influencers in exchange for the influencer featuring the advertiser’s products in their social media posts. For instance, a clothing company may pay an Instagram model to wear their clothing in his social media posts or a video game company may pay a gamer in exchange for reviewing one of their games or DLCs. 

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Instead of a Post About Musicals, How about a Piece of the Brooklyn Bridge?

I was thinking about my recent semiannual musical theatre fanatic trip to NYC and what might be interesting about it to entreVIEW readers. I usually try to find some entrepreneurial hook into the several musicals I see in the course of a brief sojourn (over this past Memorial Day weekend, six musicals in three days). You can judge for yourself whether I’ve successfully done that in my last few post-NYC theatre posts like this one about Ken Davenportthis one about "Ernest Shackleton Loves Me," or this one about "Hamilton" (which, in case you missed it, is coming to the Twin Cities late this summer as part of the Broadway Season presented by Hennepin Theatre Trust, and, in case you were wondering, no, I can’t help you get tickets). 

Anyway, I was trying to find an interesting entrepreneurial hook about Tina Fey, the author of the "Mean Girls" musical, which was one of my favorites this trip and which is up for 12 Tony Awards. Surprisingly, considering how creative and prolific Fey is, I didn’t find anything I thought was all that interesting. Nor did I find anything compelling about Robert Lopez, who wrote the score for my other top-two musical of this trip, Disney’s "Frozen." (Lopez also wrote the scores for a couple of my all-time favorites, “Avenue Q” and “The Book of Mormon.") 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Timing Matters in the Entrepreneurial Process

For those who did not catch Richard Bennett’s recent insightful blog post, he provided a link to a great article aimed at helping entrepreneurs navigate the “do’s and don’ts” of starting a business. I thought about his post when I came across the article, “When Should Entrepreneurs Write Their Business Plans?” during my weekend reading (yes, I’m an entrepreneurial geek).

Using a 2016 survey of over 1,000 entrepreneurs, researchers Francis J. Greene and Christian Hopp studied the relationship between the timing of certain business tasks and the likelihood of success. Their study found that the probability of launching a successful business not only hinges on whether an entrepreneur undertakes (or does not undertake) certain activities, but at what point in the process such activities take place. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Don’t Network. Have Fun.

Since law school, I have known that I do not generally enjoy traditional networking events that involve a large group of people meeting in a ballroom, event space, or bar and chatting over drinks and appetizers. Even putting aside the fact that I am an introvert (despite what others may believe!), I have always felt more engaged and that my time is better spent when either (a) meeting with a small group of people or (b) participating in activity-based networking. In the recent Harvard Business Review article, “Go Ahead, Skip that Networking Event,” David Burkus addresses the latter and explains why many people, introverts and extroverts alike, leave traditional networking events feeling that they have wasted their time. 

As Burkus explains, “…schmoozing at a mixer is far less likely to lead you to a powerful network than jumping into projects, teams, or activities that draw a diverse set of people together. The problem with networking events is that there’s no bigger purpose other than just having conversations with people, and without that bigger purpose—without that high-stakes activity—there’s little incentive to move beyond conversations that make us comfortable.” For many people, this means that a large amount of time spent at a networking event involves talking with people that they already know. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

What Entrepreneurs Get Wrong

Sometimes knowing what not do to do is just as, if not more, valuable than knowing what to do. I came across an interesting article recently in the Harvard Business Review related to this very topic. While this article, titled “What Entrepreneurs Get Wrong” was published a few years ago, its practical advice is as relevant now as ever.

What I like about this article is that it deviates from the notion that entrepreneurism is, for lack of a better term, all “rainbows and butterflies.” The article outlines common pitfalls that entrepreneurs face when launching their business and provides strategies for overcoming such obstacles. (Can you tell this blog post is written by an attorney?) 

The authors surveyed 120 entrepreneurs from around the world and examined the mistakes they cited most frequently, focusing primarily on the sales aspect of entrepreneurism. 

If you are an entrepreneur just launching your business, or are interested in sales strategies in general, I would highly encourage you to read this article!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Prepare to Pay More for Tunes

Due in large part to the active policing of performing rights organizations (PROs)—American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), and Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (SESAC)—most businesses understand that music is protected by copyright, and using it for commercial purposes, even if only as background sound for a photography studio, likely requires the payment of royalties.
Music licensing is complicated. Copyright interests attach to the composition itself (notes and lyrics), as well as any sound recording of the composition. It is one license if you want to perform the work (maybe more if the composition was created by persons holding joint interests, or you want to perform a specific arrangement, etc.) and two licenses if you want to use/play a sound recording for commercial purposes. 

Identifying applicable copyright interests and negotiating individual licenses for even a limited playlist would be maddening—for both copyright owners and consumers. PROs have substantially eased that burden by creating a one-stop shop that both issues blanket public performance licenses and collects the public performance royalties on behalf of the copyright owners. Unfortunately, each PRO covers different music/artists, and although they have online searchable lists, it is rare that a business will be fully covered by the repertoire of a single PRO.  And while business owners have generally accepted (often grudgingly) that they probably need a license from all three mainstay PROs—ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC—a fourth is now actively on the scene.

Monday, April 23, 2018

A Guide to GIFs

While nothing new, GIFs (an acronym for Graphics Interchange Format) have become a fundamental form of digital expression. GIFs were created in 1987 by Steve Wilhite, a programmer at CompuServe, as a new way to present a moving image. In an age of social media, they have morphed into a means of expressing complex feelings and thoughts more effectively than words and photographs.

Public interest in GIFs has increased dynamically over the past five years and is still on the rise. In 2017, the GIF celebrate its 30th anniversary. According to some digital marketing experts, it was also the year when the GIF reached its highest potential yet in the digital marketing industry.

Very few things (other than, heaven forbid, actual human interaction) can convey emotion like an animated GIF. The entertainment value of GIFs is pretty obvious and in recent years, brands have also recognized the business value. When compared to photos, GIFs are more appealing and more effective in digital marketing strategy. When compared to videos, GIFs take less time to create and are cheaper and easier to make.

The most used websites and apps for finding and creating GIFs include Giphy, GifBin, Gifmaker, ExGif, MakeAGif, ImgFlip, Phhhoto, and Boomerang (owned by Instagram). Giphy, leading GIF database and search engine, serves more than 1 billionGIFs per day  to over 100 million active daily users! Twitter, Facebook and many other popular social media and messaging platforms integrate native GIF searching into their platforms and sites like BuzzFeed have built content marketing empires by using GIFs in their infamous listicles.

But, using someone else’s content when creating and sharing GIFs has the potential to invite intellectual property infringement issues, especially given that many popular GIFs draw content from players like Disney and the NFL, which are notorious for being aggressive when it comes to protecting their intellectual property. Studios and sports leagues could decide to file lawsuits against GIF-based businesses, or they could use copyright notices to remove GIFs from websites and social media accounts. This has already occurred in the case of major sports events like the World Cup and the Olympics. Celebrities could also invoke right of publicity laws, which allow people to control how their image is used in public.

So, what does this mean you if you want to use GIFs in your brand/marketing strategy?
  • Be wary. The use of GIFs in digital marketing campaigns can be a bit of a minefield. There is a higher risk when the use is commercial and companies in the public light also make a much better target for a lawsuit.
  • Make your own. Instead of using other parties’ GIFs, the better option is to make your own using your own copyrighted material.
  • Get permission. When using GIFs that you do not create, get the permission of everyone featured in the clip, the copyright holder of the original image(s), and the person who created the GIF. There should also be appropriate licenses in place for commercial use.
  • Link to content. When using third-party GIFs, consider linking to those GIFs rather than embedding them in your own content.  
Just because other brands may get away with using GIFs in their digital marketing campaigns doesn’t mean it’s safe. Using GIFs without permission could surely invite a cease and desist from the original creators, copyright holders, or featured parties. It could create disruption (e.g. recreating and taking down content) and, if you’re really lucky, spending time (and money) with intellectual property lawyers!