Maintaining Optimism in the Face of Reality. Occasional observations on the state of the world, society, business and politics. Usually anchored by facts, always augmented by opinion.

The MPAA's Marketing Deal of the Century  | e-mail post

This week the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) scored an enormous coup (in principle at least) in their war on digital piracy by enlisting the corps of Junior Achievement volunteers to spread the message of the evils of exchanging copyrighted materials in classrooms across America. You can read a news item about it here or read JA's press release.

To my mind, the most disturbing aspect of this affair is just how cheaply the MPAA was able to buy out Junior Achievement, an organization that as a businesperson I held in some level of regard for the value of its mission. Yet they sold out to the MPAA for a mere $100,000. They expect to reach 900,000 students with this message.

Think of it, for about 11 cents per student, the MPAA gets at least an hour (probably more) of communicating their party line to a captive audience of American youth; and from an "authority figure" no less! Either Jack Valenti is a brilliant negotiator, or JA is really hard up for cash. In any event, I think other organizations should really look into this as an option. VPs of Marketing and Corporate Communications, lend me your ears; this is a completely tax-deductible opportunity to clearly send your message to the youth of America. I can imagine:

These are all exceedingly valuable lessons, and arguably all more germane to the mission of JA than the morality play the MPAA is financing.

All kidding aside, I can sympathize with the MPAA and its music counterpart the RIAA. Their memberships are composed of companies that are primarily (especially in the case of RIAA) in the business of distributing content through means which are more or less inefficient compared to simply using networks to deliver the content directly to the consumer. They are simply resisting the inevitable. They should be spending more time identifying ways to incorporate these lower-cost technologies into their distribution models. You may remember how much the MPAA also fought against the video recorder. Can the studios even imagine how much lower their revenues would be without home distribution like DVDs?

Will there always be theft of intellectual property? I have a difficult time imagining there will not be some, but I genuinely believe most people are fairly honest, and if they are provided with a legitimate, straightforward and fairly-priced mechanism for licensing digital content, they will do it. Apple's iTunes Music Store is just getting started, relatively speaking, and it is already demonstrating that on the music side.

In any event, I'm not certain the MPAA didn't actually overpay for this program. After 20 years in business, the D.A.R.E. program (Drug Abuse Resistance and Education), which reaches an astonishing 36 million students annually has succeeded in reducing drug use by high school seniors by a whopping six percent. Of course, they have also presided over a near doubling in usage among eigth and tenth graders.1

Hopefully for the MPAA this JA program won't just educate the kids who didn't know they could download their very own copy of a movie in several times the time it takes to go to Blockbuster and rent it.

1 Read about trends in teenage drug use at: Monitoring the Future's web site.
e-mail post | Link Cosmos | [Permalink]  |  | Saturday, October 25, 2003

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