The advert showcases the dichotomy of two Britains, one in which a blue-haired young man downloads a non-descript media file from a non-descript “genuine website,” and another in which his blue-haired young doppelganger downloads a non-descript media file from a non-descript “dodgy website.”
As the former struts down an empty high-street, the sound/sight of his ambiguous genuine purchase brings his city to life; his cinema shows more movies, his record shop hosts more rooftop concerts, his video arcade (most of which was shuttered before the internet became mainstream, anyway) grows more limbs and potted fungus appears outside of his bookstore, presumably because its challenging for even post-psychedelic animators to make bookstores look exciting. His local economy is thriving, thanks to his #genuine online purchase and subsequent tweeting of it.
His doppelganger, however, has found himself in a world with a poor selection of films, a shuttered record shop and a bookstore filled with menacing squatters, presumably angry at the lad for aiding in the downfall of their respective industries. Seeing what his city could have been, he denounces his pirate ways and vows to be more active on Twitter.
While it’s easy to mock its Reefer Madness approach to discouraging online piracy, the team behind Get It Right From a Genuine Site did get the website itself right, at least. Getitrightfromagenuinesite.org hosts a fairly extensive list of websites and other services offering ways to legitimately gain access to films, music, games and book.
Despite this, copyright holders seem to have largely abandoned the campaign, choosing to go down the route of law enforcement instead. The US federal government recently announced that it was looking into extending the maximum jail sentence for copyright infringers from two to ten years, the idea being that it’s notoriously difficult to access the Pirate Bay from prison. This announcement, as one would expect, was unpopular with the public, with critics noting that the proposed legislation would bring online piracy sentences in line with, or above, the sentencing used for more serious crimes such as rape and rioting.
The series of events revolving around the fight against online piracy, in my mind, shows just how damaging poor PR can be – not just to enterprises, but to the public. Imagine, if you will, two identical cities, one in which Get It Right From a Genuine Site was successful and one in which it failed to gain any sort of traction.
The former, undoubtedly, contains a population that has Getitrightfromagenuinesite.org bookmarked (to save themselves from the time-consuming 30 keystrokes) and a Twitter timeline filled with #genuine posts. They get their music from Spotify, their films from Netflix, their games from Steam and their eBooks from Amazon. The local shops, while still limbless, aren’t doing any worse, enjoying a large non-prison population from which to potentially draw sales from. The Get It Right From a Genuine Site PR team all receive bonuses for their commendable work, which they use to buy #genuine entertainment, further enforcing the campaign itself. The ISPs and copyright holders, seeing online piracy stats declining, have a Grinch-like change of heart and immediately scrap any plans for extended maximum sentencing.
The latter, however, is a world filled with superprisons built to house the influx of online pirates now serving decade-long sentences. Wanting to display some humanity, correctional officers segregate the inmates, not by crime, but by which genre of music they’re in for. Completely isolated from the general population, however, are the ones held responsible for this dystopic world-behind-bars – the Get It Right From a Genuine Site PR team. “It’s their fault we’re in here,” the inmates howl. “If only they had stuck to key messaging and targeted more relevant publications! If only they had chosen a less ambiguous hashtag!”
Indeed, good PR has the power to transform nearly any campaign, however unpopular initially, into a success. It’s up to the clients which world they want to live in, one built by a dodgy PR team, or one more #genuine.