Hogging the Picture

The Harley-Davidson motorcycle company has arranged a deal with the film school at the University of California-Santa Barbara that recruits students as cheap labor to make Harley ads in the form of "short sponsored videos for online media or for downloading to other digital media platforms such as cell phones, iPods, and PDAs." Under the terms of the "partnership," students submit proposals to Harley-Davidson, describing the type of video they plan to make. If approved, the company pays a stipend of up to $1,200 for each proposal, and a prize of $5,000 to the winner. Harley then owns all rights to the videos. The university's website explains the project as follows: "This class will also address the significance of direct internet sales on sites such as eBay, and the role of the blogosphere, webcasting, podcasting, new user nets such as Craig’s List, among many others on the way young people both consume and produce media content. Today the YouTube 'viral video' phenomenon is challenging the dominant model of top-down, organization-driven approaches to getting messages communicated in favor of more spontaneous, organic and bottom-up strategies driven by consumers themselves."