Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

Well, this is splendid.

I recently wrote about the Mad Men craze that had taken over Twitter. Characters from the hit television program sprang to life on the chattiest of social networks - including Don Draper, Peggy Olson, Roger Sterling, Bert Cooper, Paul Kinsey, Pete Campbell, Bud Melman, Bobbie Barrett, Sal Romano and Joan Holloway.

But as of about 2:00 p.m. EDT this afternoon, the jig was up. Evidently, AMC marketers discovered that their show had been brandjacked, and they quickly put an end to the fun, citing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMAC).

Given a recent high-profile Twitterjacking of a brand, it's not surprising that Twitter and AMC would have this reaction. But AMC should have been prepared for the backlash that the account suspension created. These are characters that inspired a cult following on Twitter - in some cases, garnering nearly 1,000 followers in nearly a week of twittering; and they're featured in one of the most critically acclaimed television shows of all time.

But this is where it gets interesting. By about 6:45 p.m. EDT, AMC's agency, Deep Focus, convinced them that they should be playing along, and the accounts were reinstated. Evidently, the advice that the hip agency gave their client was that it's "better to embrace the community than negate their efforts."

I suppose it raises a valid concern. In this day and age when we're seeing more opportunities for brand ambassadorship, both sponsored and consumer-generated, when should it be embraced and when should it be shunned? If fans are being faithful to the brand and encouraging interest in the brand, clearly the brand is benefitting from the increased attention and interplay.

But it's got to be incredibly unnerving for brand managers and marketing managers watch this happen. At any point, a fan with less than enough restraint might do something "off-brand" and jeopardize how people think of the company or its products. And then there's a problem.

Which is why savvy marketers should be on the cutting edge of social media. If AMC had the foresight with which I had credited them, they would have been the ones who established these accounts. But the fact that their fans did so on their behalf shows how dedicated the fans are. To quash the effort just as it was getting off the ground was foolhardy.

What do you think? Did AMC make a big mistake (or two)? When should a brand be concerned with brandjacking and when should it embrace passionate fans? Is there necessarily a fine line, or is it a gray area?