Not Doing Due Diligence Can Do You In - Just Ask Dan Rather and Me
The Shamed Remorseful Dan Rather
The Shamed Unremorseful Author
Years ago, while living a different life in a different place and time, I was a retailer. Not a Wal-Mart by any stretch of imagination, but I had created and grown my retail business to where it boasted 8 locations. To help promote my business, I produced a 30 second voice over video that extolled the virtues of a particular product I was launching. I found a cool nature video at a garage sale. It contained bits of perfect nature related material, enough footage for a 30 second cable TV advertisement I was planning.
My ad presentation began with a beautiful winter scene. In the background was what could be described as a typical American family: mother, father, young children and a family dog having fun in the snow, a perfect setting for my short-term success.
They were standing together, faces slightly obscured, huddled closely to keep warm, while observing the beautiful natural scene that provided the background for my commercial. It highlighted the beautiful winter scene on my video presentation. I ran through my perfectly crafted narration without a hitch. Why would I have to do any due diligence for such an Innocent undertaking?
I patted myself on the back for a job well done. The commercial turned out beautifully. I sent it over to one of the cable TV stations that soon scheduled it into an assortment of time slots on a number local cable channels.
I could afford only a limited amount of air time, but the ad ran randomly 6-8 times a day for two months at all hours of the day and night. About the third week of exposure, my customers began noticing it. The phone inquiries came in regularly and new customers began showing up daily. People clamored to get their hands on the product I had featured. This campaign was a rousing success. I was a celebrity, not a major one for sure, but certainly well noticed in my small community.
After a month of congratulating myself on the highly successful product kick off, my phone rang late one afternoon. The call was from an attorney who practiced in the area. After a brief and rather terse introduction, the lawyer went on to tell me that I was in big trouble and was about to face a huge lawsuit.
Some people have no sense of humor. It seems that the typical American family that unexpectedly appeared in my commercial just happened to be the family of my biggest competitor, one whose business had been deeply affected when our retail business opened. “Who knew” was my only weak defense. As far as I was concerned, the unwanted actors in my commercial were nothing but two-bit actors looking for recognition by trespassing in my brilliant commercial undertaking.
How in the world could I have ever known that the figures that flashed on the screen for only a few seconds were who they were? Those arrogant showoffs apparently stole the scene. They should pay me for their minute of fame, The whole thing was their fault. I mean who would ever suspect that a little incident of unauthorized use of another’s image for financial gain would turn things around and bite me squarely where the sun don’t shine?
Long story short: with my legal issues resolved after a sufficiently long, embarrassing tongue in cheek apology - and a promise to cease, I was let off the hook, free to find a new cause. Somewhere, buried deep in my storage bin of faux pas, screw ups and bad calls, my video survives, proof to all that even a blundering old man gets some enjoyment from his black deeds.
Watch for the reruns. if the need should arise for a brilliant but possibly risky commercial for your Internet video, call me. I can be found roaming the dark corridors of the deepest recesses of Writers Anonymous.