New BitTorrent Cryptic Ads Are Good for PR

BitTorrent NSA ad

No disclosure. Cryptic. Mysterious. By all means scary. Why was this ad allowed in a public place anyway? Because FTC rules of disclosure do not apply, that’s why. Once you “get over it” you soon realize that BitTorrent’s cryptic ad strategy paid off. I triggered interest, it generated headline, in short, it was good PR.

The strategy was revealed this Tuesday on the BitTorrent blog, in an article titled Maybe You Saw The Signs. Here, BitTorrent’s Matt Mason explains the reasoning behind cryptic ad messages like The Internet should be regulated, Artists need to play by the rules, And your data should belong to the NSA:

“These statements represent an assault on freedom. They also, for the most part, represent attitudes Internet culture has accepted,” he writes, and adds a couple of sentences after: “We put these billboards up last week in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Because we wanted to remind the world what’s at stake on the world wide web.As a society, we’ve chosen to accept data centralization: personal information as property of a powerful few. We’ve chosen to accept walled gardens of creativity: a lifetime of work (our life’s work) locked into digital stores that take 30% of the revenue and streaming services that pay pennies in royalties. We’ve chosen to accept surveillance culture: the right of security agencies to violate the Fourth Amendment; to see and store data as they see fit.But these things are just that. They’re choices. And these choices belong to us.”

This is a powerful message, and a powerful strategy to spread it across. The only problem is the messenger. BitTorrent technology was used to support pirated content that infringes copyrights, pretty much going against many artistic and freedom values held dear by many users. With statements like “Keep the web free, open; decentralized, and accessible to all” and “BitTorrent is a people-powered protocol”, the company assumed a role open to controversy. The web is free, of course, but at what cost? People do power the web, even when they hide behind corporations: the web is not a self-aware, learning entity. It needs human input to work. It is not intelligent. Instead, it represents a collection of global human-powered data.

Cryptic as they are, BitTorrent’s ads worked. They raised awareness, and triggered conversations. They are not innovation in advertising, but represent innovative thinking. More importantly, they are the first massive PR and marketing campaign by BitTorrent, a move that attempts to reintroduce the brand to consumers. What do you think? Does it work?

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