Exposure or Exploitation?

January 11, 2011 at 9:18 am 5 comments

I was reading the Utne Reader recently and I came across an pretty ad for Fluevog with an artist’s drawing.

The accompanying text read:

“Do you have the world’s best Fluevog Ad stuck in your head? Get it out at Fluevogcreative.com”.

I went to the url and read that this contest was offering $1,000 (in Fluevog gear) and exposure to the winning ad artists.

So…. is an ad worth only $1,000 and will the exposure really benefit the artist?

My initial reaction is “probably not”, because I have concerns when it comes to artists and contests. And because my antennae prick up when I hear the word “exposure”.

See, “exposure” is a woefully overused term. It is a huge “incentive” (really need the quotation marks there) offered in the indie film world – especially directed at actors:

“Work for free (and coffee!) on our production. Great opportunity for exposure!”

Now, granted, the Fluevog ads are being placed in decent magazines – so this is actual exposure, for what it’s worth, as opposed to imagined (many films don’t see the light of day as their filmmakers don’t fully grasp the challenges of getting their film into a festival).  And the winners also get bios on the Fluevog creative site (e.g. the ad I saw featured Heather Mulligan’s art and her bio is on the site).

But is there a true value for the artist in said exposure? This is not a rhetorical question. I would be interested in an unbiased follow up to this type of contest. It is entirely possible that someone else would notice the ad and hire the artist for a project.  But is it likely? How many of the ads/artists will there really be a success story for? I’d sincerely like to learn what happens.

The prize amount irks me a bit, though.  An ad results in $1,000 of product for the artists – which , by the way, in Fluevog dollars equals… about 2 pairs of shoes (perhaps less)?  Fluevog could reasonably pay more reasonably. (Of course, I can never wrap my head around purchasing shoes that are $400+, so my understanding of the value factor is clearly limited.  Oh wait, the value is only $1,000 no matter how much you love the shoes! OK, I’ll proceed then.)

In the Fluevog case, it also strikes me that the exposure might benefit one party to a degree greater than the other. The ad showcases Fleuvog. The artist’s concept is secondary – although I commend Fluevog for actual including in the creative, in addition to the artist’s name, their url (something I’ve rarely seen). (The ad I saw provided the link to Heather Mulligan’s Deviant Art page: www.auroracle.deviantart.com )

Of course, on the plus side, the artist may not get magazine ad level exposure were it not for the contest (and, in this case, I’m assuming that the exposure might have some value, which of course, is still up for discussion).  And the artist could very well re-purpose something they already created (although I haven’t checked the rules on that) and just plug in a shoe or the name Fluevog or what not, and Boom!, ad created. So it may not, in fact, involve a huge effort on their part.

And, of course, there is the fact that here I am, & Pete is, talking about it. So the “tactic” is working, in some respect. (Although, again, perhaps more for Fluevog?)

But back to the bad side: Fluevog gets the ad(s) created for far less than they would pay an agency to create, and the art for far less than a fair price: I think this serves to devalue at both industries.

Now, I understand that nobody can be exploited in these cases without their consent. The artists have to agree and do the work – and the transaction seems to be clear. That said, the lure of “exposure” is a strong one – especially for artists – who sometimes encounter difficulties in terms of getting paid to do what they love.

Your thoughts? You might also consider weighing in Pete’s post on One Degree.

*At the risk of sounding like a hypocrite, I should note that I work on and enter contests. Obviously for those I don’t see the imbalance as much – although there’s always the possibility cognitive dissonance could be at play.

I have also written about the topic of artists, contests and crowdsourcing on the following posts:

Please, Sir, Can I Have Another

Contests for Artists


Entry filed under: artist series, contests, crowdsourcing, Social Marketing, social media. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. TerminalSix  |  January 11, 2011 at 9:59 am

    Given that actual ad agencies will have round tables, do market research and focus groups… the amount seems fair for an amateur who isn’t already in the ad/marketing industry.

    It is pretty disappointing though to think that if one worked at an agency and made an ad, even if they just did the graphics they would likely make far more than that amount. (and obviously, gotten exposure)

  • 2. mose  |  January 11, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Cross posting here – mea culpa

    Thanks Monica. No, you did not post about the Alltop contest. I saw it when it was happening and was going to rant about it, but I am, or was, a fan of Guy. So I cut him some slack. Now, between the contest and his 2 million Tweets a day (By staffers) and Alltop itself not really doing anything for me …meh.He sadly has dropped off my radar.

    Loved your post, we are obviously having a violent agreement here. The one thing that still lingers is the feeling that no matter what the reasons behind a company taking advantage of market conditions, it lessens their brand in my eyes.

    And I can’t help thinking that sure $1000 of merchandise is $1000 value to the contest winner. But did not cost the company $1000.

    PS – I am getting really pumped up about a Shrink-Off Contest!!!

  • 3. Monica Hamburg  |  January 12, 2011 at 10:31 am

    @TerminalSix Good points. Another problem is that the $1,000 is in product – as opposed to real money…

    @Pete I violently concur!

    Re: product value…Ah! That’s true too…

    P.S. To readers, re: Shrink Off!

    I had commented on Pete’s post:

    “I look forward to offering a similar deal to my therapist:
    ‘How ’bout, say, I come here for a while, and, if I’m more sane in about a year or two, I pay you for the work you’ve put in?'”

    Score, Pete, glad you’re in! I’ll let you know how that goes 😉

  • 4. carolbrowne  |  January 13, 2011 at 11:47 am

    Here’s a proper flow chart showing when you should work for free – http://jhische.com/workforfree.html


  • 5. Monica Hamburg  |  January 22, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    Thank you for that, Carol! I can’t tell you how awesome I think that chart is! ❤


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