BMW doesn't get User Generated Content

User generated content is all the rage these days, and every company wants a piece of the action. Some companies understand this concept and act on it fabulously well, but others fail miserably at understanding the basic ethos of UGC.

A mutually beneficial UGC campaign will…

  • Give the company access to a vast creative resource pool composed of hundreds, thousands or millions of users
  • Give the user credit where due for the content creation through backlinks, social recognition and general whuffie
  • Enable the company and the user to build a closer relationship, a stronger brand link and, hopefully, nurture the user’s passion for the product/service

Put simply, it should be a win-win situation. But today, a friend of mine received a message via Flickr from the agency in charge of promoting BMW USA, praising one of the photos of his 3 Series.

“We are contacting you on behalf of to inform you that BMW is developing a website that showcases the photography and videos of BMW customers and fans on Your photos were found on flickr and identified as possible photos that could be used on this site. These will be displayed anonymously and your name will not be associated with them. If you agree to give us permission to use your material, we will need your signature on a Photo Release Form. We are only interested in your images of the 3 Series. 

Please see below for a link to download this Release Form online. 
Please fill out the form [PDF here] and send it back to or fax to 212-XXX-XXXX. 

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.
Thank you very much, and we look forward to showcasing your material on”

So to reiterate:

  • The photos will be posted anonymously, giving the photographer no recognition by name, backlinks or otherwise
  • BMW gets unlimited permission to use the photos in whatever marketing or promotion they wish

Ahem, did I miss something here? It’s a pretty crap deal for the photographer who is, and has been, for years, a faithful BMW owner and promoter. Yet BMW doesn’t give him anything in return for his undying love. This company has pretty deep pockets and a huge following, so it’s bound to be able to offer something exciting in return, no? A backlink to the source doesn’t cost a penny.

I’m sure this agency means well and may get UGC one day but, at this point in time, I advised my friend against entering this one-way succubus relationship and let BMW know that he was keeping the rights to his pictures, thank you very much.

12 thoughts on “BMW doesn't get User Generated Content

  1. Afternoon

    Totally agree, the expectation that the individual will just fall down on their knees for the brand is very out of date. It’s not just rude, it’s failing to understand the power of the consumer in the 21st century.

  2. Dominic Travers

    I have both been a professional photographer and worked for an agency with account ties to BMW in the UK. This does not surprise me in the least. Sadly I think this will be the first in a long line of UGC abuses by advertisers looking for that community feel.

  3. James Whatley

    PLEASE update and tell us what your buddy did…

    Did he?

    – ignore the email?
    – reply with “YOUR’E DOING IT WRONG!”?
    – reply with a link to this post?
    – contact BMW directly and request the sacking of their PR?

    Would love to know what happened next…

  4. Sarah Blow

    BMW probably don’t realise that their choice of PR and advertising agency are damaging their reputation online. I wonder how long it will take for them to realise… I definitely wouldn’t enter into an agreement like that over photographs. In fact if I were the owner of the image I would be tempted to get it set up as a poster that could be bought online 😛

    If an agency is after that image I’m sure others would be willing to pay for a copy. What worries me more is that they appear to insult the intelligence of your friend.

    I’d be vigilant and look out for the agency just using the image without permission… after all if they don’t get UGC then they may not get Copyright either… :S

  5. Pingback: Using consumers to tell your story for you (or “Hey diddle-diddle to the people in the middle”) « Creative Is Not A Department

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