The Internet is not the bad guy here

A recent article in MIT’s Technology Review looks at how some marketers and filmmakers are transforming their small operations into brand hijackers — a William Gibson term come to life if I ever heard one.

Brand hijackers make videos that spoof or parody brands and then demand money from the brands for the unsolicited advertisement. Some more eager hijackers will threaten to release and promote damaging videos if the company refuses to pay.

That’s a generalization, of course. Read the MIT story for a fuller description of the hijackers.

The impetus for this post comes from the last line in the article. A marketing exec with Dannon yogurt said he refused to pay a filmmaker for his unsolicited video. He told the Technology Review:

“The real villain in this story is the Internet because you don’t have control anymore.”

Considering that the overriding theme of media over the past 20 years has been the fact that the Internet and hypertext empower the reader and media consumer, I don’t see how it’s possible that someone who works in the business could utter something like this in 2010.

Put another way, a person who goes into the business of marketing online these days should know better than to be able to control anything.The best you can hope for is to do a good job. That’s right, kids. Do a good job from the ground up. Don’t give them any ammo to use against you.

Oh, and when you do, inevitably, give them ammo to use against you: Be transparent about your mistakes and the attacks that enemies and brand hijackers levy against you. Don’t try to hide behind some imagined veneer of control and do silly old-fashioned, top-down things, like sending out C&D letters and DMCA notices. Working with the flow of media will be much easier and more profitable than trying to fight the current.

The Internet as a villain. Give me a break.