Two and a half years ago, I took a trip to Columbus. I took a side journey to White Castle, perhaps to find my inner Harold or Kumar (although let’s face it, I’m the Doogie in this story). I took this picture:
A few days ago, I received this FlickrMail from “WhiteCastleOfficial:”
No real name given
Subject: White Castle Likes your Photo!!
Dear White Castle enthusiast,
We saw your stuff online. We dig it. We like it so much, in fact, that we’d like to include your picture on WhiteCastle.com.
Before we can post your work, we need your permission. Read the legal stuff below and email us back. As you’ll see, we offer no compensation, we simply provide the stage to showcase your White Castle-inspired genius.
Please reply with a copy and paste of one of these options:
1. Yes, Ive read and agree to all terms and I allow White Castle to use my video, “DSC_0096.JPG” on whitecastle.com.
2. No, I do not consent for White Castle to use my content on whitecastle.com.
Thank you for your talent, devotion and for saying yes. Thank you for recognizing and responding to the crave. If you have any concerns, call Debbie CXXXXat White Castle, 614-XXX-XXXX.
Long live the crave,
Your friends at White Castle
I paused for a moment and asked myself a few questions. 1) Will they pay me? (no.) 2) So this picture would just be used to promote White Castle, that vile fast food that I tried once, for irony’s sake, during a trip to Columbus? (yep, pretty much.)
I logged on to Flickr, and sent this reply:
Let’s be honest: this was a knee-jerk reaction. A quick visit to whitecastle.com reveals “craver content,” a beautiful slideshow of flickr photos for which users did grant permission, and it’s a clever (and cheap) way to embrace the quirky popularity of the brand, especially among Flickr users.
Still, I’m struck by my visceral response to having my photo being used to promote something I loathe (factory burgers). I’m all for companies seeking out new ways to market themselves and engage their fans, but fast food is a lightning rod; you never know who you’re going to turn up in a tag search, or what their views are.
Since Debbie left her number, I called her to get her side of the story (i.e. how they found me, their strategy behind this, etc), but she has yet to return my call. UDPATE: Debbie did return my call, and she says the company couldn’t be happier with the results of this campaign, for which photos are hand-selected and approved before the Flickr user receives the email from “WhiteCastleOfficial.” Grumbles like mine aren’t kicked up her way, but I can see how if the effort is successful, why bother? It’s not like she’s losing this loco-selectetarian as a customer.