Indy 500 campaign to use Instagram pics without consent

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Last month Instagram caused a stir with its updated policy regarding the use of your photos on their service. In short, the notice was announcing the use of your photos for marketing purposes by brands and that Instagram could do whatever they wanted with those photos. The backlash was tangible and Instagram reinstated their old policy within 24 hours. Good or bad, even the old policy allows the company to use your photos as they see fit.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Indy 500) may not be the first to take advantage of that policy but they certainly won’t be the last one on board. In a new campaign called #indy500orbust, Indy 500 will be collecting instagram photos with the hashtag, #indy500orbust, without user consent. Utilizing a new API service by a company called Venueseen, the Indy 500 will be harvesting all these appropriately tagged photos for a new microsite they are creating for the campaign.

A couple points of interest in this Ad Age story. For me, the comments from Indycar marketing director Jarrod Krisiloff and Venueseen CEO Brian Zuercher are worth noticing.

Indy 500’s Jarrod Krisiloff:

“When someone hashtags [an Instagram photo], we’re not using them commercially, we’re just showing them. People are making the choice,”

Fair enough, the Indy 500 fan has the ability to tag their Instagram photos with the #indy500orbust hashtag and their photos could be included in this new marketing campaign (a microsite dedicated to the term and harvesting photos is a commercial endeavor, Jarrod, and I think most people are educated enough to know that). It seems banal enough doesn’t it? Well it might if the term “Indy 500 or bust” was not already an established meme or colloquialism for Indy 500 fans although arguably you could say that the Indy 500 folks created that meme but I think the term “….or bust” was a dog-eared phrase long before they adopted it and NASCAR fans have been using that term for particular races for years.

It’s nice to see that the IMS folks recognize a fan idiom that has grown organically over time but how do you feel about IMS adopting the fan mantra for a marketing campaign using photos you’ve submitted to your personal Instagram account to share with fellow fans regarding your trip the the race? These are not submitted to the Indy 500 microsite, these are simply tagged #indy500orbust and placed in your personal Instagram account.

It gets a little more interesting when the read the statement from Venueseen’s CEO. The bravado in which he speaks about this API service is really quite souring:

Venueseen CEO Brian Zuercher:

“The C-suite doesn’t care about likes and comments; they want to see how social content can be monetized,” Venuessen CEO Brian Zuercher said in a statement. “Now, [brands] can ‘unlock’ amazing Instagram photos and showcase them on their own websites or other campaign channels.”

Nice shootin’ Tex! So what we can deduce here is that the folks at the Indy 500 don’t care about “likes” and “comments”, they want monetized social media and they’re willing to harvest peoples photos in order to do so. Those evil C-suite people! You see, I’ve spoken with the folks at the Indy 500 and to be fair, it was just before Mr. Bernard was released from his duties. Nice folks to be sure but I’m a tad baffled that they would take this avenue for a marketing campaign instead of engaging their fans and creating a contextually relevant community. They are missing the point and not even Mr. Zuercher’s bravado will solve the issue that most big companies are missing the target completely on which is, how to build communities and create contextually relevant content for their fans.

The solution to parlaying your fears of the C-suite people at the Indy 500 using your photos? Well, that’s just all semantics as brands simply need to let their customers know what they’re using the photos for says Mr. Zuercher:

“We end up helping that concern for consumers,” he said. “People want to be participating in a good way with the products and services that are behind them. What they don’t want is to feel like someone is stealing.”

That’s an odd phrase…”we end up helping”? It’s really not that complicated to be honest. The Indy 500 has some of the best fans in motor sport and all the IMS folks need to do is reach out to them and start working together to create a community of vibrant, engaged consumers. The loyalty of the Indy 500 fan is very strong and while the Indy 500 folks may feel they have as much reason to feel ownership of the term “Indy 500 or bust” as anyone, I think it would have been a better move to engage the community instead of hiring Mr. Zuercher and his brash approach to social media monetization. I’m sure Brian is a really nice fella but I’m not sure this idea of firing first and aiming later is really the best approach for such a terrific series like Indycar.

Let us know what you think? Much ado about nothing? Maybe Mr. Zuercher needs to work with FOM and start harvesting all Instagram photos with the #f1 hashtag to use in marketing campaigns for Formula One? Oh…that’s right, F1 doesn’t market itself. I guess in that light, Indycar is miles ahead of F1 as it actually does take time to market itself…even if that means rooting through your Instagram account to do so.



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