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The special fan-voting portion of Intuit's Small Business Big Game contest put GoldieBlox ahead of three other top contenders, Barley Labs, which makes dog treats out of barley, the Locally Laid Egg Co., egg producer and the funnest brand name of all POOP - Natural Dairy Compost, fertilizer maker.
Not to mention dozens of other small businesses with dreams of getting exposure on America's biggest stage. The only difference is, those other companies didn't make Adam Yauch turn over in his grave, God rest his soul.
Here's the interesting thing. Intuit's entire reason for doing this was to give a company in need a leg up, like Intuit does. They were searching for the right brands who best represented their own brand.
Apparently, this group of self-serving elitists were so enticing, Intuit was willing to overlook its own Terms of Service to put them in the top spot:
The Submission must not contain material that violates or infringes another’s rights, including but not limited to privacy, publicity or intellectual property rights, or that constitutes copyright infringement;
Entrant must have permission from all individuals mentioned or displayed in the Submission (if any) to use their name and likeness in the Submission and to grant the rights set forth herein and if requested, entrant must be able to provide such permissions in a form acceptable to Sponsor.
When Goldieblox launched their viral ad on Youtube during the voting at Intuit, it was the second professionally produced ad they had created which 'parodied' a famous song, without ever seeking the rights to use the music. Then Goldieblox filed a preemptive suit against the Beastie Boys to hopefully legally secure their right to use their music score without permission, and press released the story as if Beastie Boys sued them. Beastie boys have actually filed a countersuit now that Goldieblox brought in the big gun Google lawyers. Be aware that this little legal fight has far reaching implications. During the height of this controversy we reached out to Intuit twice for comment. They had none.
We reached out to some other entrants in Intuit's contest who didn't make the cut, and the consensus was pretty much the same. One entrant, who spoke off the record, was understandably disappointed:
We bent over backwards to follow their guidelines. And it was in the contract to make sure you didn't use anyone elses' content, brands or trademarks etc, without permission. It's very heartbreaking. You work so hard on it and to see someone who doesn't follow the rules be rewarded is just unfair.
Another popular contender was the marijuana advocacy non-profit NORML. Their spot was was rejected in round three of the contest, despite strong voting support from the public. And in the turning tide of public opinion and law, we're seeing legalization of marijuana starting to happen across the country. It would have been a very timely message. No doubt it would have owned the conversation on social media that day, too.
I spoke with Erik Altieri, NORML's communications director who was also disappointed. "It was unfortunate that Intuit made that decision [to cut us from the competition] as shown by both public polling as well as our immense support through the first two phases of contest." He went on to say "Intuit really missed out on an opportunity," not just to educate people about marijuana, and speak to the large percentage who want to see it legalized, but just from a pure PR standpoint, too. Altieri also pointed out that both Seattle and Denver are cities in two states that have legalized marijuana. From the minute after Seattle won, people were referring to the Super Bowl as the Stoner Bowl. Now people are even selling stoner Super Bowl merchandise to go along with it.
All in all, the campaign for Intuit has been successful. Intuit has taught us a lot about what it believes. For starters, Intuit believes if you control the narrative, break the law, and hire a team of lawyers favored by Google to preemptively sue an artist then your Kickstarter and VC funded "small business" will go very far. Intuit are also not brave enough to go with a controversial brand that is promoting a legal drug.
Unfair indeed. But apparently, that's business.