Competition time 2

IanVisits notes the irony of the Docklands Light Railway, famous for their absurd private policing of passengers’ photography, launching a photography competition and inviting you to send in photographs taken at their stations, even though their security patrols stop people from taking photographs at their stations. Obviously the scheme was dreamt up by the PR and marketing department, who think that they can get hundreds of publicity photos, some of which are bound to be quite good, for a single payment of £150 (or nothing at all if the prize was in turn given to them free by the manufacturer’s marketing department) — a tiny fraction of the cost of hiring a photographer.

It’s a trick that marketing departments and PR companies everywhere seem to have really caught on to this year. Don’t pay a professional photographer a grand to get the shot you need, make people do it for free! Offer a cheap prize as bait, call it a competition, and make sure the small print gives you unlimited rights to the catch. Then, target your spam at a few good photographers, and hope that some of them fall for it.

Here are just a couple of the more surreal competition subjects that PR agencies have pestered me with lately:

  • Media Consulta PR agency send unsolicited mail on behalf of the EU Safety and Health at Work Agency, who seem to think that it would be exciting to share “my image of Safety and Health at Work.” Ironically, their unsolicited bulk mail appears to break theEU’s rules on unsolicited bulk mail. But at least the EU were offering a whole €1,000.
  • Ceres PR send unsolicited mail on behalf of the HGCA — the cereal farmers’ marketing board. They’ve created “Annual Farmhouse Breakfast Week”, and think that you might want to hand over your photography in exchange for a mid-range kitchenware set. Hey, why not also get a mathematics student to write the formula for a perfect breakfast?

Sadly, the DLR competition seems to have made a schoolboy error — not in asking members of the public to do something that another department is using all the intimidation it can muster to stop the public doing, but in its offering of a prize. A cheap compact digital camera. Who would want a cheap compact digital camera? Hint: not the brilliant photographers you want to give you fantastic free marketing shots.

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