So back in 2006 a guy named Scott Ableman and some co-workers covered another co-worker’s Jaguar with thousands of Post-it (R) notes and put the pictures on Flickr. The pictures are cool — Scott Ableman’s Flickr page with the pics and story is here. You’ve probably seen them already since they went viral, ended up in millions of emails, plenty of websites, blogs including BoingBoing, made the front page of Digg, etc. Clearly I live under a rock, since the first time I found out about it was a few minutes ago in the post, “3M ‘Steals’ Post-It Note Jaguar Viral Sensation” on AdRants, Steve Hall’s great blog/website that constantly points out some of the advertising industry’s less admirable efforts.
About a year later, 3M found out about it and decided to re-create the pictures in their own campaign. The image has shown up in stores from Norway to Japan, Sweden to Singapore, and Russia to Brazil. The kicker is, they refused to pay the photographer, Scott, the usage fee he asked for, according to this excellent post by Melanie Phung here on her blog, “All About Content”. (Check it out — she’s even got an email from the eMarketing Supervisor at 3M informing Scott they could copy his pictures for $750-$1000, but if he would charge them that same fee, they’d be happy to use his!). At that point, he lowered his fee to $2000 but that was too rich for 3M, a multi-billion dollar multinational.
This was a perfect opportunity for 3M Post-its to join a social media conversation, celebrate the photographer who started it, and get a tremendous amount of positive publicity and buzz. Instead, for a measly up charge of about $1000 from what they’d been quoted to copy it, 3M decided to steal Scott’s creativity, ignore a Creative Commons Attribution license, and spit in the face of the larger social media community.
The real crime of it, no matter how loudly the blogosphere and consumers complain about their actions, is that they’re probably quite content with their actions, and probably won’t even notice any negative impact from the issue. But maybe not.
Can someone at 3M (or anywhere else for that matter) explain to me what 3M Post-It Notes thought they’d be gaining by abusing social media this way, compared to what they’re actually going to lose as a result?
(And just because I don’t feel like getting into trouble for stealing someone else’s property, I want to be clear that 3M and Post-it are trademarks of 3M. There you go.)
(One more note. Jim commented below that I innacurately stated that 3M used Scott’s picture without permission in both my photo caption and my post. I have since corrected both. This post is the corrected version. Thanks for keeping me honest, Jim.)