Just about every week, a client asks me if we can use a famous person’s video clip or voice in one of their productions. The much talked-about “Come Back to the Sea” Carnival Cruise lines Superbowl Spot brings up yet again this topic much discussed among creative media-makers: what rights are involved, even for public domain archival materials?
So-called “rights of publicity” are often something to consider when you are using a person’s image or voice to endorse a product or brand. In an interview with PR Newswire, the Carnival spot’s Director Wally Pfister (Dark Knight, Inception) seemed to be saying that an implicit product sale wasn’t the point of the ad (“we aren’t just asking consumers to purchase a product or widget, but instead, we are hoping to move them to feel a certain way about cruising.”) While the JFK’s “we are tied to the ocean” 1962 speech made to the Ambassador of Australia and delegation might be considered public domain because he made it while serving in public office, the audio could be considered to fall under rights of publicity when it comes to promoting a cruise line. (Disclaimer: I’m not an attorney. I don’t play one on TV. And I have no personal knowledge of whether or not BBDO requested these rights from the Kennedy estate.)
As creative content producers–whether commercial ventures or nonprofit enterprises–we should always be wary about this issue of the rights of people to their own voices and images, even when they are deceased. A few relevant cases come to mind. Ford Motor Company used a “sound-alike” voice in a commercial and Bette Midler sued. The appellate court ruled in favor of Midler, saying that her voice was protected against unauthorized use. The ad agency who came up with the creative (Young & Rubicum) was also named in the suit. A similar situation occurred with the estate of Erol Flynn when a photo of him was used in car ad.
Well, these are famous Hollywood stars you might say. JFK was a public servant. True enough. But the family of Richard Nixon raised a big fuss with Disney over Oliver Stone’s movie “Nixon”. On the other side of the ledger, the makers of “Selma” completely avoided using the actual words of Martin Luther King in his famous speeches, presumably because of the highly litigious reputation of the King family when it comes to MLK rights of publicity. That’s really too bad, as a generation of film-goers might never read or hear the real speeches.
So it’s a dilemma, and one you can’t always determine with full clarity in advance. As media makers, we always need to be mindful about archival clips, why we choose them, and how to use them properly. That often means running creative ideas by attorneys (as if EP and client reviews aren’t enough!). Defending our creative choices in the courts isn’t really what we have in mind when we’re designing storyboards, so it does need to play into our thinking.
Amy DeLouise is not an attorney nor does she play one on TV. She is a creative producer and director, and speaks and writes about the issues faced by other creative types trying to earn a living making interesting content.
In philanthropy, the saying is that people give to people, not causes. Connecting at the level of hearts and minds has always been critical to building long-term relationships with donors, and also with grassroots supporters. And the best way to do that is through storytelling. Now that YouTube, Vimeo, and other Web 2.0 tools are giving so many nonprofits a “channel” for their stories, personal narrative is being rediscovered. But to tell a compelling story requires critical elements.
What makes a compelling story about mission?
1. Focus on outcomes. Everyone loves a success story. Reality TV is filled with them: obese person becomes thinner, aspiring chef wins the prize, talented singer gets a record deal. Think of the success stories in your organization, but instead of listing them as bullet-points, express them through anecdotal stories.
2. Focus on people. The people who make it happen and the people whose lives are changed. Who are the people who made a difference in students lives? What are those students doing today? Who is the volunteer who went into a community and changed it for the better? What is happening in that neighborhood now? What would have happened to that child without a medical intervention paid for by others? What kind of life does this child have today? Interview-driven narratives are highly successful at building the case for donors and volunteers.
3. Show why your organization matters. Somewhere in the narrative, you need to show viewers why your organization made a tangible difference in the outcome. It wasn’t just random acts of kindness that led to this success. It was your people, your dedication, your/their dollars at work.
4. Engage viewers in their own narrative. Make sure there is a call to action somewhere in your story, usually at the very end. “How can you make a difference just like Alice did?” “With just 20 cents per day, you can change the life of a child like Shawn.” “Join us at our XYZ event to make your voice heard.” Think about what story viewers want to create for themselves after watching yours.
5. Provide follow-up options. If a viewer is moved by your narrative, they should easily be able to click somewhere next to the video or case study to do something–sign up for the conference, make a donation, become a member. Despite the tendency to want sheer numbers—hey, our video got 20,000 views!—you really want qualified viewers. And viewers who will ACT once they’ve heard your story. So be sure you provide a way they can engage other than passive viewing. The framework around the video should have clickable links. And if you are participating in Youtube’s nonprofit program, you can embed links to your nonprofit site directly in your video content.
Telling and hearing stories is our oldest human instinct. Web 2.0 just makes it easier to share.
Amy DeLouise helps nonprofits tell their stories, strategize about their futures, and influence the world around them.
Whether you are a corporation or a mission-driven nonprofit, telling stories–obstacles to overcome, successes won–can be one of the best ways to show people you are delivering on your brand promise. Human stories compels viewers and listeners in a way that other communications just don’t. But if you’ve ever had to interview someone–whether for a podcast, video or audio program–you know that drawing out the best story can be difficult.
Three typical obstacles are: 1. the person is very nervous, 2. the person is over-confident, 3. the person has tried to memorize some talking points that don’t feel natural.
Your job as an interviewer is part coach, part cheerleader, and part edit-prep-ninja. For the overly nervous person, you must find a way to connect–something you both enjoy doing or talking about, a person you both know, a place you’ve both visited. Your “small talk” before the interview will ensure success (or failure), so pay attention! For the over-confident person, your job is a little different. Rather than set them at ease about the cameras and lights, you need to make them confident in your abilities to show them in their best light. Most over-confident people are actually nervous people in disguise. So your job is to make them feel like the leader, when actually you are leading them to a better performance. The final challenge-someone who has over-prepared–is always daunting. Often I just let them get through all their points, even though it’s wasting time, so we can finally get to the “real” interview. Once you’ve gotten a subject to feel relaxed after they’ve completed their “performance,” then you can ask follow-up and clarifying questions on key points to develop the themes and answers you know will work for your production.
Amy DeLouise loves to draw out stories through interviews. For more of her tips and tools for interviewing sucessfully, try Art of the Video Interview on Lynda.com.
When my husband lost his job in the 2009 recession, we cut all non-essential expenses. But even after he was still looking 9 months later, I held off on cancelling my mail-order wrinkle cream. It seemed like giving up on the dream of staying put in the middle class. (My other dream to get rid of spider veins did go on hold, however, since that would cost thousands not covered by insurance, least of all our only-if-you-get-hit-by-a-bus stop gap plan.) My husband did finally get a job. But now I’m eying the wrinkle cream as a possible budget cut now that our older son is headed to college in a year.
And so, like many other Americans—mostly women—my face tells you my economic story: it’s OK, but it could be a lot better.
Like many families, we are working harder to stay in the same place. According to most statistics (CBO, etc) real family income for the vast percentage of us has been dropping since the 1970’s. During the same period, plastic surgery for the upper income –and even upper middle—group has grown exponentially. More than 14.6 million procedures in 2012, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). Americans spend more than $14 billion A YEAR on cosmetic surgeries and procedures. And boomer men are getting in on the action in order to “stay in the game”—i.e. find and keep meaningful work.
But apparently there’s hope for all of us without deep pockets to rejuvenate our looks and keep our visual brand young. Just as you can finance a college education, a house or a car, you can get financing for plastic surgery procedures! More than $1 billion of procedures every year is financed by companies such as medical credit cards (low intro rates, then they hit you with interest and fees), unsecured medical loans or even special doctor payment plans. Maybe there’s a face lift in my future after all?
Amy DeLouise, wrinkles and all, is a multi-media producer and branding consultant.