Sony, the Ad Council and the National Crime Prevention Council are running a contest to create a television PSA on the awareness and prevention of cyberbullying. The grand prize winners — an individual and a school group — will receive thousands of dollars worth of video production equipment. Consumer-generated marketing — great, right? Yes, until you look at all the requirements and restrictions they put on the entries.
The contest submissions must be broadcast quality — that can cost serious money. They specify tiny details like the required PMS colors and proportions of each organization’s logo. Entrants have to get talent releases from everyone involved and location releases.
And each person involved in the production has to confirm that “neither he/she nor anyone else has engaged or taken part in (or induced or encouraged anyone else to do so) in any activity or conduct that may or is likely to harm or create a risk of harm, physical or mental injury, emotional distress, death, disability, disfigurement, or physical or mental illness to any person, other living thing or any property.” Does this mean that kids who have been involved with cyberbullying (or other types of bullying) in the past cannot be involved in this project as a part of their rehabilitation?
So, essentially, the contest sponsors are asking for someone else to invest the time, money and creative energy in creating a finished spot for them, in exchange for the production equipment they would already need to own in order to create the spot. Perhaps this is the kind of thing a school-based video production class or semi-professional producer could pull off. But it also excludes an awful lot of people who might otherwise want to enter the contest. And those who do enter the contest but don’t win get nothing for their efforts — no opportunity to show off what they created or share it in other venues.
If Sony, the Ad Council and NCPC wanted to get more youth participating and engaging with this issue, why not solicit a broader range of videos with fewer restrictions, select the most creative and persuasive entries, and then cover the production costs to turn those ideas into a professionally created PSA? They could do it on YouTube or MySpace so that everyone can see all the entries and comment on them. This approach would seem a lot fairer to me, and potentially much more effective in ultimately affecting the issue of cyberbullying among youth.
I’m not sure whether this contest was underthought (in terms of the implications of the rules) or overthought (by the lawyers), but I have to hope that it’s not just all about passing off the costs.