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September 15, 2013 Vol. 68 No. 17 Back to Bulletin Main Page

Branding in the Digital Age: An In-House Perspective


Michelle Landy is SVP, Legal & Business Affairs, at FremantleMedia North America, Inc. She will be speaking in Session II, Part I: “Branding and Monetization: The Strategic Art of Building Your Brand,” during INTA’s Branding and Social Media Conference, which will be held October 3–4 at the Hotel Sax Chicago.

INTA spoke with Ms. Landy about some of the key issues facing in-house trademark counsel in the age of social media.

How has your role in branding, marketing and advertising changed over the course
of your career?


Advertising and branding are now explicitly linked, where brand equity is innately generated through creative and interactive campaigns. As consumers become savvier, non-interactive advertising has lost some value, with interactive and targeted advertising and marketing campaigns garnering much more success.

As in-house counsel, our role has shifted from pure legal solution (“How do we make this compliant?”) to business perspective, with strategic brand perspective consistently in the forefront. We’re now asked to look at a promotion from a brand equity perspective, evaluating brand value, new technologies and consumer interaction. We’re consistently involved in the brainstorming process with the creative and business teams to ensure a streamlined activation process. There’s been a movement from one-off, simple activations (e.g., at retail only) to multifaceted, multiplatform activations that ladder up into robust television integrations.

Our role is no longer simply about adding a trademark here or including a disclosure there. We are now at the forefront of creating best practices and strategies in the digital space, particularly when it comes to branded consumer promotions.

What has been FremantleMedia’s experience with using social media and the Internet generally to promote and monetize its brands?

FremantleMedia has been very proactive in the use of new media in brand building and monetization. The digital landscape has been an increasingly important driver of our brands and is integral to our business model and overall strategy.

For example:

  • Fremantle introduced America to interactive voting via text message with American Idol’s digital voting mechanism. With the advent of emerging digital platforms, the company also was at the forefront of using Twitter, Facebook, second screen apps and more basic online voting.
  • Online auditions for all major shows (American Idol, America’s Got Talent, The X Factor) have opened casting to a wider net of contestants than was previously possible with only city-to-city physical auditions.
  • Fremantle also has over a hundred YouTube channels, many of which relate to our television shows globally and some that are original digital content. The latter are becoming more of a focus for the company moving forward.

What are the key challenges you face with respect to branding in the age of social media?

     1. Brand protection in light of increasingly savvy consumers—policing the brand in an age where digital
          sprawl is rampant.
     2. Creating a cohesive voice across digital platforms when messaging originates from a variety of
          sources (contestants, judges, sponsors, agents, etc.).
     3. Quality control is not just a question of product liability; there is a whole range of laws and regulations
          to consider, including sweepstakes/contest requirements, privacy and data protection, regulatory
          requirements and third-party platform requirements and guidelines.

What are some rules for lawyers working with marketing and branding teams in the age of social media?

  • Flexibility is key—this is a changing landscape and there are no “rules” to follow. Have a tempered appetite for risk, understanding that many of these platforms and technologies are only passing fads or trends.
  • Each partner approaches social media uniquely and has a different end goal. Social media and digital are not “one size fits all” solutions that can be easily replicated across the board.
  • Legal restrictions shouldn’t hamper creativity. Use practical business solutions to find a way to organically integrate legal requirements into the messaging.
  • There are some instances where business risk—and PR repercussions—will simply outweigh the need for speed or early adaptation of a technology. Business and legal should hold firm in instances where brand equity or reputation will be at stake simply because there was a push to be first.

How do you see social media changing the role of trademark and IP counsel even further in the next ten years?


Lawyers will need to be much more well versed in technology and how it works, keeping current on emerging trends, platforms and technologies. Asking questions and getting involved are always appreciated. Participation in early phases of brainstorming and concepting is also key. An in-house counsel is particularly well situated for this, and should adapt with the changing needs of relevant business units.

What do you hope attendees of your session at the Branding and Social Media Conference will take away with them?

There seems to be a huge hunger out there for information and experiences in the digital space, so hopefully we will shed some light on some successful digital campaigns, key challenges and practical takeaways—and maybe some fun product giveaways!

For more information on the Branding and Social Media Conference or to register, please visit the conference page.

Members can also read more about these issues in “The Brand Evolution: How Social Media is Changing the Brand Conversation,” which was published in the September 1 issue of the INTA Bulletin.

Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of items in the INTA Bulletin, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest.

© 2013 International Trademark Association