The question in the title has been answered in three previous posts. We’ve seen that some institutions are ontologically cool, such as Unesco, some others benefit largely of their previous and/or current leaders’ cool factor, like the White House, while a third kind can succeed in becoming cool with the support of good communication. It doesn’t hurt if your communication is handled by Hollywood entertainment industry since the 30’s, just like for the FBI.
From this last example, one could assess any institution could become cool with enough money and with a good communication strategic plan. Let’s now see what happens when this beautiful plan doesn’t work, with the counter-example of an institution which tries hard to become cool with very little chance of success.
Hadopi – When XXI Century brings you 1984
The French Hadopi (Haute Autorité pour la Diffusion des Oeuvres et la Protection des droits sur Internet – the High Authority for Transmission of Creative Works and Copyright Protection on the Internet, see Wikipedia) is a recent institution created in 2009 to fight Internet piracy.
Here how this works, as explained by Wikipedia
On receipt of a complaint from a copyright holder or representative, HADOPI may initiate a ‘three-strike’ procedure:
(1) An email message is sent to the offending internet access subscriber, derived from the IP address involved in the claim. The email specifies the time of the claim but neither the object of the claim nor the identity of the claimant.
The Internet Service Provider (ISP) is then required to monitor the subject internet connection. In addition, the internet access subscriber is invited to install a filter on his internet connection.
If, in the 6 months following the first step, a repeat offense is suspected by the copyright holder, their representative, the ISP or HADOPI, the second step of the procedure is invoked.
(2) A certified letter is sent to the offending internet access subscriber with similar content to the originating email message.
In the event that the offender fails to comply during the year following the reception of the certified letter, and upon accusation of repeated offenses by the copyright holder, a representative, the ISP or HADOPI, the third step of the procedure is invoked.
(3) The ISP is required to suspend internet access for the offending internet connection, that which is the subject of the claim, for a specified period of from two months to one year.
The internet access subscriber is blacklisted and other ISPs are prohibited from providing an internet connection to the blacklisted subscriber. The service suspension does not, however, interrupt billing, and the offending subscriber is liable to meet any charges or costs resulting from the service termination.
Appeal to a court is possible only during the third phase of the action (after the blocking of internet access) and an appeal can result in shortening but not cancellation of the blocking. The burden of proof is on the appellant.
Without entering a political debate about the mere existence of Hadopi, we can nevertheless state that being a kind of cyber-police of the use of the Internet is not exactly cool, especially if not focusing on, say child pornography, but rather on downloading files, an online practice so popular it became the Mother of battle for the whole entertainment industry – especially the music sector.
From Hadopi’s side, the accent is always put on the pedagogical nature of its action. Because they do want to change existing behaviors, especially those of the young generation, Hadopi rightly came to the conclusion they should communicate as much as possible. And it’s clear their agency convinced them that becoming cool would help.
First, the logo.
Caveat: Hadopi’s logo is a story in itself, as the first version used a copyrighted font without proper authorization from the font’s creator – oh the irony when you think of it. Anyway, the final logo does benefit from being created in XXIst Century and is rather interesting and nice. There is an Helvetica kind of simplicity to it and it’s definitely better to my taste than most of institutions’.
Once you’ve got the logo, you’ve got to make it bigger – as they say in the business. Therefore Hadopi launched a three millions euros campaign mixing print, TV and radio spots. The message says: by not paying today’s copyright holders, you impair the creations of tomorrow, incarnated by kids and pre-teenagers who would never become the stars they should just because someone (you!) downloaded one’s favorite TV Show on Pirats’ Bay. The claim says: « Tomorrow’s creation must be defended today ». The campaign proposes with a new label, « PUR » (« pure » in English) which stand for « promoting responsible uses » and which is stamped on legal downloading platforms.
Campagne de pub de l’Hadopi par Nouvelobs
The campaign is well produced, I’d say. While the posters show future talented people when they’re just kids, the TV spots go further by offering a glance of their future work: a video clip for a pop song, an extract from a thriller movie or the trailer of a TV Show. The TV spots’ narratives are quite cool: high level of production, professional actors and directing, it teases you enough so you would actually like to watch the movie or the TV show. That’s well done. The conclusion final claim is: if you don’t protect today the artists of tomorrow, there will not be any creation in the future.
Once again, I don’t want to discuss this assertion. Just saying it’s a well expressed point of view in a cool way. As a communication exercise, it does change the perception of the institution and renders it less « bad cop » and more « concerned with our creative children’s future ».
Did it work?
I have no objective study to prove this point but my wet finger intuition tells me it didn’t. On the French Internet, Hadopi is, as far as I can tell, since considered as a bad and uncool governmental agency. Critics loathe the campaign’s cost. Haters, trolls and flamers are still active against the very existence of Hadopi in the various platforms surfed by Hadopi’s target audience.
As a bonus, Hadopi itself released a study about Internet uses, in an attempt to legitimize and demonstrate its efficiency. Alas, the study shows that people downloading illegally films and music are also the one purchasing the most (as every study on this subject always demonstrated).
Joe Karaganis, from SSRC, points us to the news that there’s been yet another such study… and this one is from HADOPI, itself. Yes, the French agency put together to kick people off the internet for file sharing did a study on the nature of unauthorized file sharing, too. Not surprisingly (and consistent with every other study we’ve seen on this topic), it found that those who spend a lot of money on content… were much, much, much more likely to also get content through unauthorized means. HADOPI released the results in a somewhat convoluted way (perhaps trying to downplay this result), but Karaganis reformatted the results to make this clear:
Karaganis suggests, then, that HADOPI’s method of dealing with this — threatening people to stop their file sharing, won’t do very much to help the bottom lines of the entertainment industry.
Getting cool or die trying
Honestly, I don’t know what Don Draper would do – except pouring himself another glass of brown to clear out his mind. If you don’t like what people say about you, change the conversation – well, Hadopi is essentially the subject of the conversation as it is closely linked to the eponymous French law ruling online intellectual property. Changing the name won’t help neither. Hadopi is the perfect anti-Unesco: it’s a natural born uncool institution, at least for its primary target which is the relatively young Internet users who download stuff. Communication alone might not save the branding. If J.E. Hoover got to run Hadopi, he’d force Hollywood to promote it and might get a result after a decade or two. There is another irony here, knowing some main actors of the entertaining industry support Hadopi and yet don’t help turn it into anything cool.
Does that mean that institutions perceived as evil will never reach a cool status if they don’t have a whole entertainment industry behind them? Two opposite examples jump into my mind, even if there are not « institutions » but « foundations ».
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the George Soros Open Society Foundation were both created by two famous personalities not exactly perceived as being the coolest people on Earth. While Bill Gates was the world’s richest man, he arguably suffered from being Mr. Microsoft, largest Operating System Monopoly of the computer world. George Soros was famous for his speculating talent but not necessarily in a cool way:
He became known as “the Man Who Broke the Bank of England” after he made a reported $1 billion during the 1992 Black Wednesday UK currency crises. Soros correctly speculated that the British government would have to devalue the pound sterling.
To make the story short: two famous but not universally liked rich men created their foundations, one because « All lives have equal value », the other in view of « building vibrant and tolerant democracies ». Both aims are pleasant but they don’t generate the happiness included factor of Unesco. Yet, both foundations became cool, not because of huge investments in communication (even if communication played a part, for example in the notable improvement of Bill Gates’ public speaking skills) but rather because of their actions. Soros foundation played a significant role in Eastern and Central Europe’s transition to democracy and Gates’ has acquired a serious reputation in solving development issues. Their actions are promoted via adequate communication, acknowledged by their audience and their peers.
As a result, both foundations can be considered cool even if such a result was neither easy nor obvious from the start. There’s almost a karma wheel at work here.
On a side note, check out their website. Very good job here.
The leverage to the coolness, in their case, is to be found in the proof by samples or in the action theory. Judging an institution on the quality of its achievements, in how they fit with its general objectives and philosophy might be the easiest way to access the nirvana of cool.
Kindergarden philosophy wins again: not everybody can be cool, some have to stay lawyers or accountants. Kidding apart, before investing an institution’s budget on branding, a quick reality check might prove useful. We’ll detail this in the next and last post on this case study.
La Quadrature du Net (opposing to Hadopi) (in English)
Numerama.com « Découvrez la campagne de pub Hadopi à 3 millions d’euros » (in French)