Monthly Archives: February 2012

Miracle Whip Oscar Tweets

Miracle Whip gets edgy; trolls Twitter on Oscar night.

Miracle Whip has a history of non traditional advertising. They paid Lady Gaga to include their product in the music video for “Telephone” in 2010, and frequently places ads and sponsored content in video games like Skate 3. But all of that is fairly tame, compared to the tweets coming from the Miracle Whip official Twitter account on Oscar Night. Their  plan seemed to be to address some of the snarky tweets that are often made about celebrities, and their choice of targets was certainly not tame.

Not surprisingly if you engage with NSFW comedians you can expect some cutting responses to schoolmarmish tweets.


Miracle Whip’s tweets were not random, but rather tied to a new campaign highlighted by an Oscar commercial called “Keep an Open Mouth”. With that tagline and free flowing nature of the Twitter, you could see how things could go a number of less than PG ways quickly.

Here is an early release of the commercial:

For a major consumer brand (we are taking Kraft here), this trollish engagement approach is unique. They didn’t wait for consumers to engage with them, but rather actively tweeted their own “you should be nicer comments to people who had no expectations that they would get challenged on their tweets. The upside of this approach is fairly limited, but the risk are quite high given an established brand like Miracle Whip.

Any thoughts on this approach?  Is it better than the normal corporate PR we see from brands?

Twitter Free Advertising From American Express

Does your Twitter account qualify for a free $100 advertising credit?

American Express is offering 10,000 small and mid-sized business a free $100 credit to start using Twitter’s new self-service ad platform. The news was announced two weeks ago, and I wanted to explore the details and process.

In order to qualify for free Twitter advertising you must:

  • Be a U.S. business with a U.S. billing address.
  • Be an American Express Cardholder or have an American Express merchant account.
  • Have a Twitter account that tweets business news and updates.
  • Follow @AmericanExpress on Twitter.
  • Have followers who actively engage and respond to users through @ mentions, retweets and replies. It is unclear how they will evaluate this or if it figure into actual selection.
  • Be a small or mid-sized business. No definition is provided as to what businesses meet this qualification.
  • Register your Twitter account at:

If you are selected what you should know:

  • American Express will start contacting selected business in March via a direct message to your Twitter account from @AmericanExpress.
  • It is likely you will be given a link to then provide more details and verification that you meet the American Express qualifications.
  • The $100 Twitter advertising credit can be used to “gain more followers for your Twitter account and to extend the reach of your Tweets to find and engage new customers”. You can use the credit to bid for promoted account placement on a per-follower basis or promote tweets on a cost-per-engagement basis.
  • The cost to acquire a new follower in the Twitter system generally runs between $2.50 and $4.50.
  • You can’t use the credit for Promoted Trends. Since Promoted Trends start at $125,000, this shouldn’t be an issue. 😐
  • If you spend more than the $100 credit you will be charged via the credit card you register at sign-up.

Questions about the process:

When I signed-up, I wasn’t asked for my American Express credit card number, so it is unclear how and at what point American Express will do verification of eligibility.

While some reports say the first 10,000 eligible registrations will get the credit. The qualifications on the sign-up page indicate there may be some discretion on American Express’ part in terms of what accounts are eligible.

I emailed American Express to try to get additional information on the process and some idea of how many spots are left. I will update this post if I get a response.

If you have signed up for the process, have questions or know additional details, feel free to leave a comment.

This site doesn't allowing pinning to Pinterest - Example - LLsocial is pinterest friendly -l

New code lets websites opt-out of Pinterest.

In my discussion this week with Ben Silbermann, the CEO of Pinterest, he laid out a number of future plans for the site, and three of them have been implemented in the past few days.

Pinterest has . . .

  • Clarified their business model with disclosure to users of potential monetization efforts.
  • Released code that web publishers can use to prevent their images from being pinned to Pinterest.
  • Placed a characters limit on the captions of pins.

Aside from the disclosure of possible monetization efforts, the other two changes have been in the works for a while.

Pinterest now allows websites to opt-out.

This is an example of what a user would see when trying to pin an image from a site that has opted-out of using Pinterest. I briefly added the code to my site, but LLsocial welcomes pinning.

This week I wrote about Pinterest’s potential copyright violations. Pinterest is taking these issues seriously and implementing changes to better allow publishers to opt-out of Pinterest.

Pinterest made an addition to their help section called “What if I don’t want images from my site to be pinned?”:

We have a small piece of code you can add to the head of any page on your site:

<meta name=”pinterest” content=”nopin” />

When a user tries to pin from your site, they will see this message:

“This site doesn’t allow pinning to Pinterest. Please contact the owner with any questions. Thanks for visiting!”

I question how many sites will use this code, given the popularity of Pinterest, but Pinterest is trying to address copyright issues in a proactive way. This code still doesn’t prevent users from downloading copies of images and then uploading them. It also doesn’t stop users from pinning images that were stolen and published on another site. That said, it is a good first step. Ben outlined some other steps they are working on for the future, but even this one step shows a real commitment to being a fair and progressive player in the copyright space.

500 character limit added to pin captions.

Of all the changes this week, the character limit will most affect users, and generally in a positive way.

As new people have been joining Pinterest, some of them haven’t quite understood the site, or at least tried to use it in their own unique way. Some pinners were copying the text of blog posts into the pin captions. Since Pinterest previously didn’t have a character limit, these pins could go on for pages and pages. Ben Silbermann told me that recipes were particularly problematic and that posting full recipes didn’t reflect the intent of Pinterest which is to have users go to the original source of the image. Ben indicated they didn’t want to be as character restrictive as Twitter, but they did want to find the  right balance.

For now they are testing a character limit of 500.

Pinterest adds disclosure about how they (might) make money. Conversation with Pinterest CEO.

Ben Silbermann, the CEO of Pinterest, called me this morning after reading my story on copyright issues. While he didn’t want to go into detail about how they will continue to address that issue, he did provide me with his take on the affiliate link modification story.

Ben told me that it was never Pinterest’s intention to be deceptive. He indicated that the use of Skimlinks was a test, not a business plan, and that Pinterest had stopped using Skimlinks a week before I wrote the original story on the subject.

My Error

The image I provided with the original story actually showed a piece of code that didn’t relate to the Amazon’s affiliate program. At least one reader commented on my blog that the link I listed wasn’t an affiliate link, and several people emailed me indicating that they couldn’t replicate the link modifications when posting pins. This makes more sense now, as Pinterest had stopped using Skimlinks a week before I published the story.

Pinterest’s silence on the affiliate link story.

Despite the popularity and reach of the Pinterest, the compnay only has 16 employees and the vast majority of them are focused on development issues. Ben indicated that Pinterest is still figuring out how they best want to respond to issues as they come up.
A Google News search of the term “Pinterest” returns hundreds of stories and guides each day about the service. Ben indicated that Pinterest wants to be transparent, but as a startup trying to continue to develop a compelling product, their team doesn’t want to be constantly reacting to every new article or story about their business.

Pinterest has updated their site with a disclosure.

In order to provide transparency and clarification going forward, Pinterest added a new section on their help page to address any possible future questions around the monetization issue. The new section is called “How does Pinterest make money?”:

Right now, we are focused on growing Pinterest and making it more valuable. To fund these efforts, we have taken outside investment from entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. We’ve tested a few different approaches to making money such as affiliate links. We might also try adding advertisements, but we haven’t done this yet.

Even though making money isn’t our top priority right now, it is a long term goal. After all, we want Pinterest to be here to stay!

Skimlinks was not a monetization effort, but it was testing.

Ben stated to me, “Our focus right now is not on monetizing, but we have tried a few things out to better understand how people use the service. We want to be a profitable company, but we want to make sure whatever model we eventually use, works with customers. We haven’t decided on one way to do it.”

Ben indicated that Skimlinks was more about testing how people used Pinterest rather than a long-term plan for monetization. Using Skimlinks, Pinterest was able to test a number of things including whether users would make purchases when linked to from the Pinterest site.

In the end, most Pinterest users, who were aware of the link modifications, wanted some type of disclosure, and they got it. Whatever route Pinterest ends up taking to a sustainable business model, it seems they have taken the approach that users need to be aware of some of the behind the scenes testing that may go on in the process.


Is Pinterest the new Napster?

Update 2/19: Pinterest now allows websites to opt-out.

Pinterest is disrupting the world of images much like Napster did with music. The rate of usage reflects the fact that, like Napster, those who use the service often become addicted to getting access to the best content in one place, in this case images. Like Napster, most of the “content” is actually posted in violation of both the law as well as Pinterest’s own terms of service. Pinterest got big so fast that it has been difficult to scale their policing of copyrighted images. Despite these similarities, it is unlikely Pinterest will go the way of Napster because all of these violations of both law and rules, don’t seem to hurt any constituency enough to bring about the kind of formal and informal pressure that eventually made Napster go away.

99% of pins are likely in violation of Pinterest’s Terms of Service.

People love Pinterest for a variety of reasons, but the core of it comes down to the best images on the web all being available on one web site, and users being able to easily express themselves using these images. If a user sees an image anywhere on the web, they are just a couple clicks (with the Pinterest bookmarking link) from pinning it to their board and thus onto the Pinterest site. This is how Pinterest is used by almost every user. In fact, Pinterest encourages this usage:

Once installed in your browser, the “Pin It” button lets you grab an image from any website and add it to one of your pinboards.

The problem with this is that Pinterest’s own terms of service states that you need to be the owner of or have explicit permission including all right, licenses, consents and releases to pin any image to their service. I added bolding to the key point:

You acknowledge and agree that you are solely responsible for all Member Content that you make available through the Site, Application and Services. Accordingly, you represent and warrant that: (i) you either are the sole and exclusive owner of all Member Content that you make available through the Site, Application and Services or you have all rights, licenses, consents and releases that are necessary to grant to Cold Brew Labs the rights in such Member Content, as contemplated under these Terms; and (ii) neither the Member Content nor your posting, uploading, publication, submission or transmittal of the Member Content or Cold Brew Labs’ use of the Member Content (or any portion thereof) on, through or by means of the Site, Application and the Services will infringe, misappropriate or violate a third party’s patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret, moral rights or other proprietary or intellectual property rights, or rights of publicity or privacy, or result in the violation of any applicable law or regulation.

With the vastness of Pinterest it is impossible to come up with a precise number of pins that violate this Terms of Service, but a review based on those users I follow personally, the accounts @free follows, and looking at how other people use the service, leads me to believe that likely 99% or more pins wouldn’t meet the strict wording Pinterest’s own terms of service.

If you use Pinterest, think about the last time you pinned something where you had a the full rights to do so including consents and releases. It simply doesn’t happen. The only time this would be the case is when you are pinning your own images or those you own.

Is it illegal? The difference between Pinterest and other image aggregators.

Some will say that Google images essentially does the same thing, so there can’t be anything uniquely wrong with Pinterest’s approach. Sean Lock in several informative blog posts tackles the issues of whether Pinterest is protected by copyright law since they don’t actually create the pin as well as if fair use protects Pinterest.  In both cases Sean believes that Pinterest is in violation of the law.

In the case of Google, the images are only small thumbnails and they go away if they are removed from the web site they are drawn from. As this comprehensive post on the legal implications of pins states:

Say you remove a photo from your own site in order to sell it. Or say you find a copy of your art posted illegally on someone else’s website and ask them to remove it. Once the image is removed, Google automatically drops it from search results, but Pinterest’s full-sized copy of the image remains.

Flickr can more easily police images because they require that users upload them from their hard drives. Pinterest’s popularity comes from the ability of users, and the implicit blessing of Pinterest, to take images from any site and pin them with just two clicks.

How can Pinterest solve these issues?

The short answer is they can’t. Their whole model is based on users being able to link to any image on the web. Taking away that ability, takes most of the fun and interest out of Pinterest.

The long answer is that they can…

Try to appease the squeaky wheel and continue to work within the copyright law.

If a photographer, publisher or blogger (who take photographs) wants an image taken down, Pinterest should make it as easy as possible to do. If Pinterest can make it easy for those who are unhappy with their work being pinned to have it removed, they can appease those who are frustrated with the service. The problem is that manual takedown of images is always difficult. It is particular difficult because Pinterest got so popular, so quickly. Their current solution is for the rights holder to complete a full DMCA Notice of Alleged Infringement Notice. Pinterest Copyright Agent is listed as Ben Silberman of Palo Alto, and Pinterest provides a mailing address, phone and email address to contact.

In working on this post over that last three days I called the number twice. The first time on Monday I got a message that the voice mail was full. In a call today, I was told to leave a message for the Google voice mail user. The DMCA copyright requirements are rather time consuming, and it is entirely possible a popular photographer could have to complete the process on almost a daily basis to keep up with violations.

Use the publisher “Pin It” button to explicitly give permission to pin.

Pinterest has been encourage publishers to add a “Pin It” button to their relevant pages. This allows user an easy way to pin the content on the page they are visiting. It is conceivable that if legal pressure became too great, Pinterest could only allow content from pages that specifically have a Pin It button. This would allow for an explicit acknowledgement from the publisher that they want their content on Pinterest. This doesn’t solve the issue of publishers misusing copyright images, but it would go a long way to resolve the broad misuse of images. Based on Pinterest’s popularity, it would result in a mad rush of publishers adding Pin It buttons to their site to take advantage of the chance to getting their content on much slimmed down, but still popular site.

Pinterest is unlikely to go the way of Napster.

There are few reason for this.

  • Everyone loves Pinterest.
  • Even those industries “hurt” by theft of images on balance are benefiting from Pinterest.
  • Consumers are not the main source for the licensing of photographs and images.

Everyone loves Pinterest.

To put it more precisely, those who love Pinterest, really love it (insert one of your friends’s comments about how addictive it is here). Those who don’t like it, don’t hate it. A passionate user base is not a legal basis to violate the law, but it does provide a significant consideration for organizations trying organize a lawsuit to go after one of the most loved sites on the Internet.

Napster was disruptive to a major entertainment industry who felt they got nothing from its existence. The only group who is actively questioning the legality and benefits of Pinterest are photographers, graphic designers and a few bloggers. Whether a select group of them would work together to sue Pinterest is unknown.

Pinterest on balances benefits photographers.

Even in this group, most who actually pin themselves or have readers pin their work are getting so much traffic from Pinterest, that it is easy to overlook those pins of their work that don’t link back to them. Traffic is the not the same thing as making a living, but it does provide some compensation for the use of one’s images on Pinterest.

Consumers have never been the main source of licensing dollars for photographers.

While tens of thousands of photographers in the U.S. make their living shooting weddings, graduation photos and a variety of pictures for a consumer audience, this group generally isn’t losing money when their pictures are place on Pinterest. In fact, it can be a good source of leads if the pins are being posted by users in their community. These photographers are selling based on the relationship and subject matter. This group of photographers isn’t selling to everyone, they are selling based on the subject matter being of interest to their specific clients (and in most cases the photos are actually of their clients).

This situation contrasts sharply to Napster where in a matter of months, many young people stopped purchasing CDs since they now had generally unlimited access to music for free.

Those photographers who make a living selling their images to corporations and news outlets have a high degree of protection, because their end users are businesses that make it a practice of licensing images. These businesses are not going to be pirating images off Pinterest to put in their publications and presentations.

Violations do exist.

All of this said, photographers have valid claims that their work is being misused and stolen by Pinterest users, and this violation is being facilitated by Pinterest tools. As Pinterest continues to become more and more popular, it will be interesting to see how they handle these issues both in the court of public opinion and likely in literal courts.


Pin It