Content Cafe


From “Don’t Copy That Floppy” to “The Price of Piracy”

by Gail Grant

Research has been used to develop community awareness engagement campaigns to change attitudes and behaviours to film and TV piracy.

As a new marketing and communications student one of my first instructors talked enthusiastically about the rationale behind the practice of marketing principles. He was a sensational teacher who could make any subject seem filled with great purpose. We were told that marketing was about identifying a need and then filling it with our product. Simple. And effective. Just look at the fast food industry’s success in fulfilling a need for quick gratification, or washing powder products claiming whiter whites and cleaner undies. Yes, fulfilling needs through marketing is ubiquitous in most societies today with brand engagement at high levels.

Perhaps the noblest use of marketing principles is community engagement or social marketing. Governments, community organisations and health departments have used this type of engagement to help the public become aware of certain behaviours and, through awareness, affect a change in attitude and behaviour.

In Australia there are many examples of social marketing having a profound effect on society. Ask anyone which campaign they remember and it’s likely these three will be mentioned…

“You’re a Bloody Idiot” – The Victorian TAC anti-drunk driving series started in 1987,
“Grim Reaper” for AIDS Awareness, also launched in 1987 and,
“Slip Slop Slap”, Sun Smart’s campaign launched in 1980 then re-launched in 1988.

Each campaign began with a need to address worrying and damaging behaviours – rising road tolls, epidemics or rising rates of skin cancer. Each was carefully targeted, their message tested and results surveyed over many years and each has had measurable success in creating attitudinal and behavioural change.

Creative industries around the globe have used awareness campaigns to protect against bogus copying and distribution, with differing degrees of success or infamy.

A campaign with good intentions but no apparent research was the 1990s’ US Software Publishers Association’s “Don’t Copy That Floppy”. Featuring an alien rapper calling for software protection, it was broadly criticised. A 2009 sequel added armed SWAT police raiding homes and arresting would-be pirates and families. The campaigns have recently become YouTube sensations and popular memes!

A 1980s British Phonographic Industry (BPI) campaign – “Home Taping is Killing Music” – was the first to link the concept of piracy to the action, with a version of the Jolly Roger. The campaign was widely parodied but the reference to piracy was embraced by copyright infringing organisations and can now be seen in the pirate ship logo on notorious torrent site The Pirate Bay.

The global film industry has been more successful with consumer messaging in the digital era with numerous examples of effective campaigns aimed at raising consumer awareness about the technicians and artists involved in the creative industries.

In the UK, the campaign messages from the Industry Trust for IP Awareness have evolved over many years, driven by consumer research.

The “Find Any Film” website, launched in 2009, was created to provide a site the public could use at no cost to search for any film, DVD, or TV show and see it in cinemas or find a legitimate copy.
In 2011 the Trust launched “Moments Worth Paying For”, using film trailers to demonstrate the powerful impact of great screen content. Audiences that saw “MWPF” ads were significantly more likely to pay for legitimate film and TV product than those not exposed to it, according to tracking research.
Creative Content UKs “Get it Right from a Genuine Site” (2016) changes perceptions that infringement is socially acceptable and safe and, with wide industry support, includes an enforcement component by sending emails via ISPs to infringing customers.

Australia’s education and awareness programs about content piracy have been evolving since 2007. The overwhelming need for a communication strategy began with marketplace research in 2005 tracking the number of legitimate DVDs sold in Australia versus the number of illegal DVDs sold. Alarmingly, the number was very close to 50/50.

It was clear something needed to be done.

Led by the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft, an unprecedented alliance was formed between film and video distributors, rental and retail outlets, cinemas and content producers to develop a local response. A strategy of on-going research was adopted to ensure the message effectively engaged the public.

The 2008 campaign – “What Are You Really Burning?” – addressed the DVD copying issue, pointing out that the downloading, burning or buying pirated movies and TV shows was affecting industry jobs and the ability produce and finance local films.

Running in local cinemas, on TV and on DVDs, the result was satisfying.

Research found 63% of cinema goers were less likely to access pirated movies once aware of the adverse effects on the creative industry.

The next round of research provided a new insight – one in three Australians said they didn’t participate in any form of film or TV piracy while actually accessing pirated material regularly. “Are you an Accidental Pirate?” was developed and launched in 2010 with well-known Australian actor Dan Wiley using humour to raise awareness. 46% of survey respondents said the ad made them think about the issue and 44% claimed it would have an impact on their behaviour.

Building on the communication strategy and measured success of the first two awareness campaigns, the Australian industry has continued to develop campaigns based on research.

“Excuses” (2011) built on the data from “Accidental Pirate”, challenging Australians to see the truth behind the usual excuses given for piracy.
“Thank You” (2012) demonstrated the industry’s appreciation of the 73% who chose legitimate screen content.
“Play Your Part” (2015) –  shot on a working film set, the campaign focused on the everyday workforce involved in making screen content and reminded audiences of the part they play in maintaining a healthy and sustainable screen production industry.

In 2017 a new campaign, “The Price of Piracy”, alerts consumers to the increased online risks posed by pirate sites. Based on research showing that self-interest is a key driver in changing behaviour, it highlights how these sites have become the number one method of propagating malware on the internet.

Asking the public to first see themselves clearly in a situation and then change their attitude, in any way – for health, safety or industry protection – is a long on-going process.  Social marketing, to be effective, must be noticed and then remembered to create a change in behaviour.

Anti-piracy campaigns globally and here in Australia have measurably helped to build appreciation for the value of screen content.

A skilled marketer with over 30 years’ experience in film and home entertainment, Gail Grant has created and managed many successful communication campaigns and events. Gail has been a Senior Marketing Executive with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. She also served as CEO for the Intellectual Property Awareness Foundation before semi-retirement in 2011. These days Gail sails the Australian east coast with her husband and their sometimes sea-dog Molly.

Campaign video links:

Thank You” (Australia)

Get it Right from a Genuine Site” (UK)

Play Your Part” (Australia)

Stop Pembajakan” (Indonesia)