Cre­ator’s Dilemma

GUEST AR­TI­CLE As cre­ators and co-cre­ators in the shared world of so­cial me­dia, we are barely be­gin­ning to dis­cover sub­jects that need dis­cus­sion.

The Brand Reporter - - BY INVITATION - (The au­thor is joint pres­i­dent and chief cre­ative of­fi­cer, Red­if­fu­sion) By Rahul Jauhari feed­[email protected]

Let me hark back to just a few years ago, when the world was bliss­fully free of ‘So­cial Me­dia’. When con­tent meant a state of peace­ful hap­pi­ness and shar­ing was still the act of giv­ing one part of your favourite choco­late bar to some­one else.

Ad­ver­tis­ing, more specif­i­cally film mak­ing, was al­ready strug­gling with ris­ing me­dia costs and the pres­sure of pack­ing a great story into 30 sec­onds.

It was quite usual for agency creatives to sell a su­perb story to a client, then sell the same dream to the di­rec­tor and go forth and shoot a bunch of lovely mo­ments. Which, once you hit the edit ta­ble, got sac­ri­ficed on the al­tar of the 30 sec­ond (or 20) limit.

The film that fi­nally went on air, while it may have been ex­cel­lent, didn’t carry all that the agency creatives or the di­rec­tor would have wanted to pack in. Or even the re­laxed sto­ry­telling they would have de­sired, given the chance.


The con­so­la­tion prize was the Di­rec­tor’s Cut. A longer, wish­ful edit with mo­ments that never made it to the re­leased edit, that was cre­ated and kept mostly by the di­rec­tor on his show reel, and the agency creatives in their port­fo­lio. It ex­isted on CDs. Few ever saw it. Other agen­cies, when they re­viewed a di­rec­tor’s reel. Or other clients, when they re­viewed the same at the time of choos­ing a di­rec­tor to shoot their own film. It was just that. Harm­less stuff that no one had a prob­lem with.

Cut back to present day. A lot has changed. While some things haven’t.

Tele­vi­sion spots are now even more ex­pen­sive. Con­tent means some­thing else. Shar­ing is no more about choco­late bars. How­ever, in spite of long for­mat films mak­ing their pres­ence felt on the in­ter­net, agency creatives and di­rec­tors con­tinue to pack their re­laxed wish­ful sto­ry­telling into 30/20/15 sec­onds ed­its for TV.

The Di­rec­tor’s Cut is now, more often than not, shared by di­rec­tors and pro­duc­tion houses on so­cial me­dia plat­forms to at­tract the at­ten­tion of agency creatives, clients and their own fra­ter­nity. Or is up­loaded by them and by agency creatives on port­fo­lio web­sites or agency web­sites.

A larger world sees it now. And there lies the prob­lem.

Re­cently an ex-client asked me to re­move a Di­rec­tor’s Cut that we had shared on our agency YouTube page. The rea­son was that this was pub­lished con­tent and shared with­out their prior per­mis­sion. Over and above that, it was not the of­fi­cial re­leased ver­sion. This par­tic­u­lar up­loaded cre­ative piece clearly said ‘Di­rec­tor’s Cut’ in the ti­tle, along with the brand name. Like the usual Di­rec­tor’s Cut, this was a longer ver­sion, with voice over chopped and with shots that didn’t make it to the shorter edit that was aired on tele­vi­sion. The di­rec­tor had shared it on So­cial Me­dia and sub­se­quently so did we.

While I took the piece of work off our YouTube page (there was no war here, ev­ery­thing was am­i­ca­ble), it did pro­voke a lot of ques­tions for me.

To clar­ify my own doubts, I posted the case on Face­book (no names taken) and sought the opin­ion of client friends and col­leagues.

A few of the ques­tions I asked were as fol­lows:

1: Given that con­tent gets shared, does a Di­rec­tor’s Cut need client ap­proval be­fore shar­ing in this age of So­cial Me­dia?

2: We all un­der­stand re­leased work when it comes to TV and Print. How about the in­ter­net? If I share work on my or my agency’s page, is it re­leased? What dif­fer­en­ti­ates re­leased VS un­re­leased on the in­ter­net?

3: What rights of shar­ing/ own­er­ship does a cre­ator or co-cre­ator have over a piece of work - do note I mean non-com­mer­cial rights.

4: Is this be­ing too sen­si­tive over too mi­nor an is­sue or does this have ram­i­fi­ca­tions of a more se­ri­ous na­ture?

I will first thank all the good folk who took the trou­ble of re­spond­ing to my post. They have made this ar­ti­cle richer with their con­tri­bu­tions.

I shall also at­tempt to sum up the rich spec­trum of re­sponses the post re­ceived. I have taken the lib­erty of re-ex­press­ing them/sum­ming them up here.


Well for once, the in­ter­net has changed ev­ery­thing. Ev­ery­thing up­loaded or shared is tech­ni­cally pub­lished con­tent. And if one had to go by ‘rules,’ the client owns the con­tent.

The ques­tion of course re­mains, how strict does a client wish to be about this? At one ex­treme end, when con­sumers take con­tent pub­lished by a client, change it, remix it, cre­ate memes out of it and fur­ther share/ pop­u­larise it, is that good or bad for the client? A lib­eral/pro­gres­sive client would say it’s great.

Do the same rules ap­ply to agen­cies and pro­duc­tion houses (who will in­vari­ably pre­serve the sanc­tity and essence of the brand mes­sage, never mind the edit length) who share a Di­rec­tor’s Cut?

All client re­sponses were clear – the brand owns the con­tent. Prior per­mis­sion needs to be sought. One in­ter­est­ing re­sponse was that the longer cut may end up be­ing more pop­u­lar than the one aired on TV. Why is that a bad thing, I asked (as­sum­ing the in­tegrity, sanc­tity of brand and idea are kept in­tact). Well, bet­ter to be safe than sorry, was the an­swer.

In­ter­est­ingly, most of the views ex­pressed by agency folk were on the side of cau­tion as well. If it’s go­ing to be shared on the web, bet­ter to seek per­mis­sion. Usu­ally, just the cour­tesy of ask­ing should be good enough.

Con­sumers how­ever are not paid to cre­ate/recre­ate/share con­tent, so sim­i­lar rules do not ap­ply to them. As­sum­ing the con­sumer-cre­ated and shared con­tent is not deroga­tory, any good brand owner/cus­to­dian would be my­opic not to en­cour­age it – pointed out one of my in­dus­try col­leagues. How­ever, when it comes to an agency or pro­duc­tion house, proud as they may be of the work, they have been paid for the job and hence can­not en­joy the same free­dom a con­sumer does.

One in­dus­try peer termed the is­sue a mine­field that needs to be ne­go­ti­ated care­fully. The prob­lem be­ing that un­like the days of the show reel CD, the in­ter­net ex­poses the work to a po­ten­tially lim­it­less au­di­ence. Chances of the longer cut be­com­ing more pop­u­lar than the edited one is a re­al­ity and it’s bet­ter to co-opt the client into the same.

Yet an­other re­sponse was that it mostly boiled down to mi­nor ego is­sues. A longer ver­sion, as­sum­ing in­tegrity of thought and idea, should be wel­comed. The mu­sic in­dus­try has ex­am­ples of nu­mer­ous ver­sions of a song be­ing cre­ated and shared by fans and other mu­si­cians – the orig­i­nal mu­si­cians/bands rarely have prob­lems with that. It only adds to the rich­ness and pop­u­lar­ity of the orig­i­nal piece.

While I do not have im­me­di­ate con­crete an­swers to this slightly grey area, if I pull back, the Di­rec­tor’s Cut is merely an ex­am­ple. In a world where ev­ery­thing is con­tent, and ev­ery­one is post­ing some­thing or the other, the un­der­stand­ing of who owns the con­tent and how much lib­er­al­ism is good or bad for a brand cus­to­dian, needs to go up. Es­pe­cially as clients spend more and more money on the medium.

One in­dus­try mate, on a hu­mor­ous note, pointed out that any­way many clients are run­ning a longer cut on the web, even as the con­sumer sit­ting in front of the TV des­per­ately tries to fig­ure what flashed by in the last 30/20 sec­onds. In­ter­est­ing point – given the de­bate be­tween me­dia cost and sto­ry­telling is one that con­tin­ues. But that’s an­other long dis­cus­sion that I shall save for an­other day and an­other post. Right now, I have this set of 20 sec­ond TV com­mer­cials that I must at­tend to. The dead­line is ap­proach­ing... ■

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