In 1990, Canon™ cameras launched a television ad campaign starring the rising tennis player Andre Agassi who said, “Image is everything”. Over the course of his career, building his brand off the court was as much a part of Agassi’s trademark as his tennis game.
It’s important not to put style over substance, but it is true that athletes, actors, musicians, business people, ". . . if you have pictures on FaceBook™, videos on YouTube™, or, go outside your home, you have a public image." politicians, teachers, students and all individuals have a brand worth building and protecting. As owners of our brand, we portray ourselves to improve that public image rather than destroy it. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a public figure, the fact is that if you have pictures on FaceBook™, videos on YouTube™, or, go outside your home, you have a public image.
The music group The Police were at the height of their career when founding member Sting did not grant permission to a deodorant manufacturer to use the song “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” in a TV ad because he did not want his band associated with armpits and body odor. Later in his career however, Sting’s song “Desert Rose” was used in a Jaguar™ commercial in March of 2000 when he not only consented, but in fact helped arrange the song to be used in the car company’s advertisement.
Most recently, the legendary singer, songwriter and performer Tom Petty issued a cease and desist letter to the Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachman for using his song “American Girl” in her campaign ads. As a liberal activist, Petty did not want his name and image associated with conflicting political views. One of the main reasons is that this could hurt Tom Petty’s relationship with his fans, as it would appear that he is endorsing the Republican Party when in fact, he is not.
There are three important reasons we should learn and teach branding and image concepts.
The first reason is that as creators, students will want to display their own work in a way that positively promotes their own brand as artists. This not only goes for those behind the camera, but those in front of it as well.
The figure below shows where one student had requested of another student the permission to download a video from YouTube and insert it into a presentation. It’s interesting that the owner and producer of the video requested that the complete video be used so that his best work is displayed.
The second reason students should make sure they are not violating someone else’s brand in their videos is for legal reasons. The fact that a video project is for educational purposes or not for profit does not make the creator exempt from legal issues, especially when videos are published online.
The third reason is for educational purposes. Students need to learn these concepts to prepare them for their careers. A great way to do this is have them research a creator’s background to determine whether or not they should use the persons’ image or creations in their video or other project. Technically, the student needs to get written permission, but, if Fair Use applies, they can use the song or other form of media without permissions.
Here are some tips on making the assessment:
• Search the artist or public figure online
• Read their biography
• Look for groups or organizations they support or oppose
• Find other background information about the public figure
• See if they have issued any cease and desist requests to others such as in the Tom Petty example
Media Literacy Assignment Suggestion
The goal: Teach students how to determine the branding disposition of public figures and creators. Where students participate in a mock election process and students run for a political position. Have them create a video as part of their campaign ad. Have the class research artists and images that would appear to support the disposition of the political candidate.