NEW YORK: In the midst of a pitched public debate over the future of the recording industry, Magnet Communications is helping to reposition the controversial file-sharing service Kazaa as a legitimate business, despite industry attempts to portray services like it and their users as content pirates.
Working behind the scenes since it won a competitive bid last spring, Magnet just unveiled a $1 million print and online ad campaign that builds on a long-running PR effort showcasing Kazaa's plan for the commercialization of peer-to-peer file-sharing. The strategy, which involves paid, licensed music, movie, software, and video-game downloads, has not been met with open arms by a crucial party, the major record labels.
"We want to send a message to the industry that Kazaa's 60 million users are not criminals, and that this is a technology that's here to stay," said Magnet president Paul Jensen. "To continue to use lawsuits to solve this problem is to miss an opportunity to contemplate new and better business models."
The integrated marketing push by Kazaa, which is owned and distributed by Sharman Networks, comes as the record and film industries make their own attempts to persuade consumers that file-sharing will harm artists and others involved in the creative process. In September, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) filed copyright lawsuits against 261 people and immediately sparked a PR backlash. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has taken a more moderate approach with a series of PSAs that run as trailers in movie theaters.
Both groups have insisted on maintaining their traditional control of distribution in the face of technology that allows them to be skirted. Both rely on rhetoric that, with varying degrees of moral severity, paints users of these file-sharing services as violating copyright law.
Central to Kazaa's rebranding is a complex messaging strategy that urges the record labels and movie companies to license their content, and asks Kazaa users to put pressure on the companies to do this. Another message, which is key to Kazaa's makeover, also puts some moral pressure on its users to simply pay for content.
"We want to mobilize consumers to let their voice be heard and educate them that they must do the right thing," Jensen said.
The PR push involves branding, along with litigation communications and grassroots, public-policy, and corporate-reputation work. It's also led Magnet to bring Sharman CEO Nikki Hemming, into the media spotlight.