Category Archives: Commercial Matter

FTC Claims High Ground In Complaint Against Nissan/TBWA “Hill Climb” Spot

By: Brian J. Meli

The spot was called “Hill Climb,” but it thrust Nissan Motor Company and TBWA Worldwide into full reverse when the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) declared it deceptive and charged both the Japanese automaker and its advertising agency with violating federal consumer protection laws.

Naming TBWA as a party in its complaint was a significant move by the FTC, because it sent a clear message that the commission will continue to hold advertising agencies equally responsible for facilitating false or misleading claims when they know or should know that these claims contain material misrepresentations.

Why was this particular spot, which portrays a Nissan Frontier pickup truck racing up a precipitous sand dune to rescue a buggy, singled out in a competitive category loaded with sensational and over-the-top messaging?

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Italian Government Goes Ballistic, Claims U.S. Gun Ad Infringes Its Copyright

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By: Brian J. Meli

Say what you will about copyright law, it can lead to some seriously entertaining (and absurd) disputes.

Take this week’s news story about American gun manufacturer ArmaLite Inc.’s use of an altered image of Michelangelo’s David in an ad promoting its .50 caliber AR-50 assault rifle. In the ad (reproduced above) the famous renaissance statue is depicted cradling the high powered rifle instead of its signature slingshot; a weapon which, had David had actually wielded it, would’ve allowed him to fell most of the Philistine army before lunch.

The image has drawn harsh rebukes from the Italian government, and led to the Italian Culture Minister to call for the ad to be pulled, claiming: “an image of David, armed, offends and infringes the [Italian] law.” (loosely translated).

Really?

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Michael Jordan Goes One-On-One Against The First Amendment

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By: Brian J. Meli

When Michael Jordan sued Jewel Food Stores, purveyors of the Jewel-Osco supermarkets, for running a full page ad in Sports Illustrated (see above) congratulating the retired basketball superstar on his induction into the Hall of Fame, reactions from Chicagoans ranged from bewilderment to outright resentment. What could arguably the greatest sports icon of the modern era possibly gain by trying to squeeze a few extra bucks (by MJ’s standards) from a local supermarket chain that just wanted to celebrate his achievement? The ad, after all, wasn’t really an ad, so much as a printed tribute to a basketball legend. It was a symbolic gesture of local pride and support; not a shallow attempt at promoting a half-off sale on paper towels, Jewel maintained. Well, Jordan and his lawyers disagreed. They argued that an ad is an ad. And whatever its purported intent, this ad misappropriated Michael’s valuable publicity rights, which Jewel used to its commercial advantage.

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What’s The Story With All Those Mobile Coverage Maps?

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By: Brian J. Meli

It happened one Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago. I was stuck indoors, perusing the day’s schedule of college basketball games and girding for the latest in a spate of nasty New England nor’easters, when I came across that now ubiquitous Verizon Wireless ad where regular people are asked to interpret brightly colored ink blots that turn out to be maps representing the nationwide network data coverage areas (or lack thereof) of Verizon’s competitors. After the interviewees take turns interpreting the expressionist-inspired shapes as depicting everything from a gaggle of geese to Whistler’s Mother, they’re shown Verizon’s network map, revealing an unambiguous rendering of the lower forty-eight, thus receiving a much needed “reality check.”

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An Equal Opportunity Internet: The Net Neutrality Endgame

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ByBrian J. Meli

A lot of ink was spilled last week over the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. striking down the FCC’s Open Internet rules, better known by their catchier nom de plume: “net neutrality.” While there’s been no lack of coverage on the ruling, or prognostication on what it may mean for the future of the Internet, I’m inclined to add my own voice to the chorus; if for no other reason than to provide what I see as some needed perspective on the topic. If, in the process, I talk some of the digital doomsdayers back from the ledge a few steps, so be it.

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This Isn’t A Game: The Serious Side Of Running Contests And Sweepstakes

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By: Brian J. Meli

You’re looking to build some hype around a new product rollout, establish a social presence for your company, or provide some pop to your third quarter sales. Whatever your reason, you need to get consumers quickly engaged with your brand, and you’ve decided a promotional game is the best way to accomplish that. Not a bad decision given how effective contests, sweepstakes and games of chance can be at generating consumer interest. And with social media providing the perfect platform for rolling out these tactics, they’ve never been easier to administer. The unfortunate corollary to that fact, however, is that it’s also never been easier to get your company into a world of trouble (and by trouble, I’m talking about the criminal kind) for what may seem like a perfectly innocuous sweepstake. The hard truth is that due to gambling laws that vary considerably from state to state, the difference between a well-executed promotional effort that sparks consumer interest, and an illegal lottery that puts the Attorney General’s office on notice, can be very small indeed. How small? Read on.

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Getting Literal With Puffery

In keeping with the theme of previous before/after advertising exposés, these comparison shots between fast-food offerings and their dressed-up alter egos demonstrate that even celebrity sandwiches need lots of work before they’re ready for their close-ups.

http://www.businessinsider.com/fast-food-advertisements-vs-reality-2013-12

The content of this blog is intended for informational purposes only. The information provided in this blog is not intended to and does not constitute legal advice, and your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and The Law Firm of Brian J. Meli. Under the rules of certain jurisdictions, the material included in this blog may constitute attorney advertising. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Every case is different and the results obtained in your case may be different.

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Four Letters No Digital Content Provider Should Ever Forget: DMCA

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By: Brian J. Meli

If you make your living providing online content (read: publishing, entertainment, advertising, design, photography etc.) you’re already well aware that you can’t profit from someone else’s creative efforts without their permission. While you may find the intricacies of the various forms of intellectual property law elusive, it’s nevertheless likely you have a general grasp on the notion that it’s not ok to reproduce someone else’s images, songs, articles, or videos unless your compensating them for the right to do so. If you don’t understand that, you either aren’t in the online content business or you won’t be for very long.

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