Best Buy Samples UCLA Icon For Ad (In Order to Sell Stuff)
After I go right to the Hot Property section of the Sunday Times, I go next to the happy blue Best Buy circular. I don’t know why I am so drawn to this ad, but maybe there is something reassuring about the steady drop in the prices of plasma TVs. Is it that those little yellow price tags conjure fond childhood memories of watching The Price Is Right? Or is it just the excitment of the Tuedsay CD and DVD releases that will become easier to download once ripped and shared to the world.
Anyhoo, I notice that this week’s ad features an uncredited image of UCLA’s Royce Hall as part of it’s crazy back-to-school promo (“Major in music with a 4GB iPod!”). While obviously the photo context is a generic purpose to signify “college” to a national market (it is also used on the BB website), the thing is, with or without the UCLA name attached, Royce Hall is an iconic landmark, specifically associated with UCLA and easily recognizable for it’s twin columns and asymetrical high windows. You’d think that use of such an image would require a “(c) UCLA” or “(c) UC Regents” tag, which are absent here. And that would only apply in the unlikely event that UCLA would grant permission for this clearly commercial usage. Uh oh. Turns out use of images of Royce and all UCLA buildings are protected under the umbrella of UCLA’s tradmark policy, which you and Best Buy marketing executives can read here. Here are the juicy parts:
“In addition, The Regents claim rights to all graphic representations of UCLA, University of California Los Angeles, Bruins, and to Campus mascot illustrations. …
“F[.1] Commerial Use … This prohibition extends to advertising using any name, picture, landmark, building or other indicia.
So beyond just the bad taste of an implicit endorsement or partnership with the juxtaposition of UCLA and the Best Buy name, we’re in some sketchy legal territory. The image of this public institution’s most recognizable building is trademarked and likely being misappropriated for commercial purposes. Any legal eagles out there want to chime in? If there is an agreement between UCLA and Best Buy for some mutual promotion (they do both use blue and gold as their signature colors… hmm), this might be disclosed. Otherwise, I think the UC Regents counsel might be interested in talking with Best Buy. Those Regents never miss a chance to add some money to the University purse.