With Robert Andrews: Piracy is isn’t just a big problem for the entertainment industry execs, it also keeps creative types like Andrew Lloyd Webber awake at night, and is a focus of Lord Carter’s Digital Britain report. Last week, the British film industry started its latest cinema campaign. But the touchy-feely new ads are in stark contrast to the hectoring, scare tactics of yesteryear. We looked through the archives to give you a video retrospective of 15 years’ of anti-piracy campaigns. Please turn off your mobile phones at the back…
— Beware of illegal video cassettes, 1990s: Made before computer video was even a twinkle in Gordon Moore‘s eye, this is old school: the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) warns consumers that fake counterfeit videos (yes, that’s tapes, kids) could “reduce viewing pleasure and jeopardise future film production”, in an ad that was tacked on to the start of rented and bought tapes. Not only that – they can play havoc with your VCR tracking.
— Don’t touch the hot stuff, 2004: This guy bears more than passing resemblance to Beelzebub (freeloaders go to hell?). The Advertising Standards Authority got a complaint that this sizzling commercial’s claims “piracy funds terrorism” and “piracy … will destroy our society” were exaggerated “and caused undue fear and distress”. FACT admitted it could not substantiate its claims because it’s evidence was “confidential” – but the ASA agreed with it anyway and rejected the complaint. Yes, the voiceover really does say “cool is copyright”.
— The Market, 2006: More hard-hitting scare-mongering from FACT, in an ad that uses a seemingly innocuous market scene to show how piracy funds drugs, guns and people trafficking. Additional warning – buying legitimate DVDs may fund Guy Ritchie’s ongoing film-making efforts.
— “You wouldn’t steal a…”, 2004: This classic and much-parodied Australian announcement lists things most people wouldn’t nick (mobile phone, handbag, car), drawing a parallel with intellectual property. The problem? Some people really would steal films – just to get around these invasive warning ads.
— Just a DVD? Think again, 2006: Here the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) shows the gritty reality of the illegal DVD trade and its links to organised crime.
— Knock-off Nigel, 2007: When the lifting the veil on a criminal underworld doesn’t work, just make viewers feel cheap and embarrassed. In the original “Nigel” advert, here a grizzled folk singer gets his point across as Nigel tries to enjoy a quiet pint. Doubtless, branding people as skinflints probably wouldn’t work in today’s economy…
— Knock-off Nigel mkII, 2008: In Nigel’s latest outing – one of the first ads to specifically warn against illegal downloads – the chap berating poor Nige looks not unlike a flute-wielding Will Ferrell from Anchorman. Moral of the story – only suave guys who download legitimately (and sport a moustache) get the girl.
— You make the movies, 2009: How times change. The film industry’s new softer campaign includes three ads, each referencing famous movie dialogue voiced by ordinary folk: Jaws, The Life Of Brian and, seen here, Lord of the Rings. Oddly, there’s no mention of “piracy” at all – instead, it’s a gentle reminder to movie fans that “your ticket helps support the film industry in the UK; thank-you”.