Remember my previous post (reLink) on the topic of Coca-Cola’s “VirtualThirst” competition? Steve Coulson from event organizer and marketing consultant group Crayon commented today with a link to Coca-Cola representative Michael Donnelly’s response to the concerns of critics like me.
You can read Steve’s comment here – reLink.
You can watch the YouTube vid here – Link.
And here’s my response:
Well… that was terrible. If I were Coca-Cola, I’d yank it off YouTube before someone remixes that thing in the worst kind of way.
a) First off, in my opinion this video comment comes off as heavily scripted. It seems he’s reading from cue cards – probably placed around the camera based on some of his eye movements – and has been practicing. Not good. It comes off as being insincere. And there are better ways to do this in general. For starters, he should get out of that office. The dry erase board (among other things) is deadly. He’d be better off speaking as an avatar afaic.
b) His arguably flippant comment on the tax issue seems to assume all entrants are coming from within the IRS’s jurisdiction. I don’t recall the competition being limited to U.S. residents. Is it?
c) Furthermore, is Coca-Cola saying they’re unaware of any way to cover one person’s tax liability? I can think of a possible way (two, actually, but the second is a stretch): If the winner is treated as a consultant and travel is included under Coca-Cola’s accountable plan, then their expenses would be reimbursed by Coca-Cola who would then claim the expenses as part of doing business. The “consultant” wouldn’t have to claim anything (according to the IRS agent with whom I just spoke). Is there a legal reason this can’t be done?
FWIW, I’ve done this myself in previous years; my corporate client bought the plane tickets and paid the bills; I submitted receipts and an expense report to them, I was reimbursed and they claimed everything. I’d like to hear why this can’t be done for those entrants who are subject to IRS rules and regulations. And if this isn’t legal, then someone needs to inform both the IRS and the corporate accountants who instructed me.
d) The “submit via blog” comment doesn’t fly with me. “We thought long and hard about it…” – give me a break. As far as I’m concerned, this isn’t about protecting contestant rights. I’d submit this is most likely about ensuring that the idea isn’t published, because that probably has legal ramifications detrimental to Coca-Cola’s interests.
Just because someone submits an idea through one of the *approved* methods doesn’t certify that it wasn’t lifted from someone else. That’s just common sense. In fact, I can point to some online design discussions regarding future vending machines that are already out there and which might be used in someone’s submission. And I suspect Coca-Cola considered such a possibility. But they don’t necessarily know about those so they’re safe, in the legal sense. If someone rips off an idea, submits it, and it turns out to have been in the public domain because it was published on a blog or a design forum, at least the issue falls back on the person submitting the idea and not on Coca-Cola. Right?
e) Ideas for the year 3000? Please. This isn’t about 3000, or 2300 or even 2030, because that window is outside most everyone’s concern. I don’t believe Coca-Cola – like quite a lot of others – cares about anything outside of 3-5 years; 7 tops. This is, in my opinion, about owning the idea. Not the one’s for the year 3000, but the one’s they *might* be able to use now. Long shot? Sure. But it’s also easier to own everything and put all the risk on someone else than deal with all those legalities.
Sorry, Coke. You still don’t get it. But then after visiting the new Nissan effort in Second Life and reading all that pseudo-sales verbage (and yes, I’m making a distinction between that word and “verbiage”) stuck all over the place, you’re not alone.