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November 14
Unreal Campaign Visits London

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I recently had the distinct pleasure of presenting INTA’s Unreal Campaign sessions at Felsted School.

Felsted is a large independent/private school in Essex, England, about 60 miles from London. On September 30, I presented the Unreal Campaign program to the school’s 17- to 18-year-olds (about 250 students), and on October 14, I made the presentation to the 15- to 16-year-olds (again, about 250 students). My presentations were part of a school program that engages outside speakers to discuss issues considered to be of relevance to the students in the context of helping them become more rounded individuals with a broader outlook than they would gain from textbooks alone. 

Astute readers will have already noted that September 30th and October 14th were both Saturdays. Yes, these kids have to go to school on Saturdays! The students go to their classrooms in the morning and take to the sports fields in the afternoon to take on other schools at rugby, hockey, soccer, etc. 

Though I had the pre-lunch slot, when one might expect the students to be getting restless, anticipating their usual sports activities after lunch, I was very pleasantly surprised with how attentive and engaged they all were. I briefly introduced them to the fundamentals of trademarks, to INTA, and to the Unreal Campaign, before launching into an explanation of counterfeits and the damage they can cause. This was the point at which I was expecting the students to push back. I anticipated that several of them—emboldened in such a large crowd—would be prepared to challenge whether counterfeiting is always “wrong,” in particular in those cases where they know that what they’re buying is counterfeit and thus they are not themselves deceived or conned. Perhaps surprisingly, I was confronted with very little argument. I genuinely believe that the students learned that even such cases still amount to theft, and that in any event there are much wider repercussions than just the impact on the rights holder and the purchaser. We explored the very simple but fundamental questions: Where do you think these goods were manufactured? And where do you think the money goes? 

Having (hopefully) won the argument and convinced them that counterfeits are bad, we moved on to discuss some of the ways to try to avoid purchasing counterfeits by mistake. This inevitably led to a discussion about purchasing on the Internet and some of the telltale signs that the goods advertised are likely to be fake. Judging by their reactions, I think much of this was new to the students.

My recounting of my “war stories” turned out to be a treat. It certainly helps to have spent many years running around some far-flung places to carry out raids on counterfeiters. Mostly, these operations are fairly turgid affairs, but just using the word “raid” in front of a group of teenagers was enough to grab their attention. What most engaged them was the (true) story of the factory in Thailand that made counterfeit products, where not only did much of the labor force consist of young children, but where some of them had broken legs—a punishment meted out by the factory owner if any of the children tried to escape. A stunned silence followed this story.

What I found most interesting was the level of existing knowledge about the availability of counterfeits. Many hands shot up when I asked if anyone had seen or purchased counterfeits. Most of the students had seen (and many had purchased) cheap fakes from beach vendors in tourist hot spots around the Mediterranean. But none were prepared to put their hand up when asked if they would purchase again! So perhaps I got through.

If any of you has an opportunity to lead an Unreal Campaign presentation, I would highly recommend you do it. I feared a hard time from a hostile audience, but my experience was quite the opposite. Instead, I left on both occasions feeling like I’d actually made a difference. Bring it on!! More please.

To learn more about the Unreal Campaign, visit inta.org/unrealcampaign. Thanks to our 2017 sponsors for making this possible. 

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