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postit.pngOfficeMax has run some fascinating ad campaigns over the past couple of years and I admire the the work of its agency, The Escape Pod. I also love the company’s willingness to try weird ideas, like Get Elfed and my fave, the Tul pen campaign.
OfficeMax just launched a brilliant Post-It Notes campaign, and that brings focus back the truly ridiculous battle 3M, maker of Post-its, got into with a guy named Scott Abelman. (He’s right, they’re wrong.)
Dear 3M and OfficeMax – what you have here is a failure to communicate. Having consulted to massive companies ranging from IBM to Ford Motors, to McGraw-Hill, Cendant, etc, I know that many times, divisions in the same company simply don’t talk to each other. And often, different divisions have different agencies, none of whom have the opportunity to consult with, or even meet, the others. Some clients are downright secretive, and others just don’t take the advice they pay for. Some variation of that has got to be what’s happened between 3M and OfficeMax.
With all this clever Post-it marketing going on, Michelle Gebbie, eMarketing Supervisor of 3M Office Supplies Division, got in a public tussle with Abelman, who works for InPhonic, a Washington, DC-area Internet company. Photos of his practical joke of covering a co-worker’s car with 14,000 Post-it notes, went viral, with more than 150,000 views and links worldwide.
Gebbie contacted him, asking if they could use his photos on their back-to-school store merchandising. When he asked what their budget was, he claims that she said they didn’t want to pay to use the photos. Instead of paying him, they used his idea, tried to take advantage of his viral buzz, and took their own photos of a Post-it covered car they are using in a national campaign.
So silly, so petty, so wrong to co-opt the guy’s idea when it’s clear that millions are being spent on marketing. Really puts a damper on the fun campaigns to know Abelman got burned by a $24.5 billion multinational corporation that refused to pay a small licensing fee to the amateur photographer who inspired their user-generated content contest. Am I the only one who sees the irony there?
Let me be very clear: Escape Pod seems to have absolutely no part in creating this issue. They do great creative. But their client clearly has some communications issues which aren’t likely to disappear. 3M re-created Abelman’s Post-it covered car rather than steal his actual photos because they were too cheap to pay him a reasonable fee for the idea. And that’s generated a storm of blog posts which is likely to grow.
All 3M had to do was offer Abelman a few grand, and a credit on his photos. I bet he’d have become a brand evangelist. I bet I and a lot of other bloggers would have also. Instead, they went to the mat for a stupid sum of money, with no thought to the consequences. Been there, seen that. Never makes any sense, never will.
As one commenter noted on Abelman’s post, “Post-It Note Car Stolen by 3M (READ THIS)”: “The cheap bastards, companies usually pay a fortune to get such publicity and come up with such great marketing ideas from advertising agencies. ”
Now, here’s their latest hopes-to-go-viral campaign. The infamous, and brilliant, Coke & Mentos EepyBird guys are at it again. They’ve been hired by OfficeMax and ABC-TV’s Samurai Girl to do The Extreme Sticky Note Experiments. The video, which includes the Samurai Girl herself, had its world premiere on the show on Sept. 5th.
There’s also a YouTube video contest.
3M Carjacks the Post-It Note Jaguar
3M ‘Steals’ Post-It Note Jaguar Viral Sensation
How not to do a social media viral campaign