Stealing pictures: The new advertising revolution
We all look for shortcuts in life, and advertisers appear to be no exception. In the latest trend equivalent to putting all hope on losing weight with a box of Alli, companies are using images of B-list celebrities to promote their products... without official endorsement.
Michael O'Leary sets the example after recently featuring advertisements across the UK with an unendorsed mugshot featuring Queen Sofia of Spain, and the slogan "Fly like a monarch". This appeared just shortly after announcing their first annual loss of E169m.
The Queen may have purchased a £13 ticket from Santander last week to visit her brother in London because it was the only route available at the time, but the Spanish family was probably not too thrilled by the cheap publicity stunt. O'Leary's idea of damage control was by simply offering to donate £4,400 to a charity of the Queen's choice.
After all, there is very little that the Queen could have done in the UK. "Image rights" here differ slightly from those in the US, where Woody Allen won £3.3m against American Apparel for using an image of him dressed as a Hasidic rabbi in a billboard ad in 2007, clipped from the 1977 movie 'Annie Hall'. Allen goes as far to describe the brand using words such as "sleazy" and "infantile" (but from their past ads, our expectations were set low).
Here in the UK, celebrities appear to have less privileges. While they can take action against misuse of their name or image with misleading associations or implied endorsement of a product or service, there is no limitation on the commercial reproduction, given that it is an artistic expression. This means that you can take a celebrity image and stick it on a mug without violating image rights, provided that the merchandise is not suggested as "officially endorsed" or produced by the celebrity involved.
Now, what if your family picture gets stolen and used in an ad in the Czech republic? What would you do?
More importantly, what was the likelihood that you would have even found out about this in the first place?