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“Knock-Off Nigel” Coming to the UK

Copyright owners in the US are busy getting universities to do their handiwork.  In the UK, they’re relying on a different sort of cultural institution — stereotypes: 

As part of a multi-million pound, cross-media initiative, the Industry Trust for IP Awareness will hope to transform consumer attitudes by attaching a social stigma to copyright theft.

The message will be passed down through a fictional character, “Knock-off Nigel”, a “shabby” pub-going rogue who buys “knock-off” DVDs, illegally downloads music and entertainment content, and generally grabs what he can for free.

The Trust, I suppose, is making plans for Nigel.  How long will it take for parodies to show up on YouTube? 


21 thoughts on ““Knock-Off Nigel” Coming to the UK”

  1. Bruce — I’m speculating that there’s a cultural signal in the phrase “pub-going rogue” that resonates somehow, presumably negatively. I’m not sure that I can say the same for “hog.”

    Deven — Of course!

  2. Hogs don’t have a negative connotation? I don’t think the campaign would be as effective if it was the “Energy Puppy.” In both cases, you have an attempt to link bad behavior (wasting energy, copyright infringement) to a stereotypically negative image (hogs, pub-going rogues). PSAs as usual, as far as I can tell.

  3. Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered, and all that? Sure. My favorite example of this sort of simplistic PSA is “Border Guard Bob,” who was going to keep Pittsburgh’s young people from moving out of the region when they graduated from college. The very idea was so widely and loudly ridiculed that the campaign never happened.

    Still, I wonder whether “Nigel” and “hogs” are different, because the latter campaign plays with a stereotype about animals, and one that I assume is nearly universal, rather than a stereotype about people. Is there a sense in which the negative connotation of “hogs” is culture-specific? So that calling someone a “hog” in the US is demeaning, but calling someone a “hog” in England or Australia is not?

    “Rogue” seems to be pretty generic to me (again, maybe I’m missing something), but that may be wrong. The “pub-going” part strikes me as English, and “shabby pub-going rogue” seems designed to invoke a specific matrix of negative associations — pubs, the kinds of people who hang out in pubs, the kinds of business that’s transacted in pubs — that for lack of personal knowledge, I simply can’t picture. We might say “sleazy bar-hoppers” in the US, but I don’t think that the metaphor captures the same matrix.

    What’s more, associating music and movie piracy with this Nigel character may backfire: If he really is such a sleazoid, it’s possible that the cultural argument would allow folks who download music and buy pirate DVDs — but who don’t see themselves as “shabby pub-going rogues” — to distinguish and legitimate themselves. “I’m not like Nigel” (because I’m not shabby and/or I don’t go to pubs and/or I’m not a rogue), therefore “I’m OK,” even though I do the things that Nigel does (grabs entertainment content for free).

  4. How ’bout “cartelizing Carl”? “Goes around accumulating market power to fix prices, impose consumer-unfriendly DRM, and propping up dead business models.”

    I’m not defending the bad Nigels of the world, but I do hope that the “real cool” that emerges in response to this campaign is awareness of where one’s entertainment dollars are going. As Bart Simpson once said, “Whoa, I just dreamed my family was cartoons and we were supporting some propaganda network!”

  5. Well, it’s possible the Energy Hog might inspire some children to run around the house, turning on light switches and snorting like pigs. But let’s hope not.

    And there might be other people who say, “What about Wiretapping Wally? You don’t have to listen to that silly energy-saving campaign from the government because the government also engages in illegal wiretapping.” But I think we can agree that that’s a non sequitur.

    Anyhow, it looks like the “pub-going rogue” phrase is from the news article but not from the campaign itself, which is in part being run *in* pubs, so I don’t think they are relying on any stigma from going to a pub. Rather, the message seems to be that Nigel is a cheapskate, a freeloader — which doesn’t seem that inappropriate to me, as long as it’s targeted at those who download entire works rather than paying for them.

  6. Well it’s all very well and good, unless you happen to be called ‘Nigel’ my mate Nige has just about got over the XTC song from the eighties, he’s a handy lad who from time to time has been known to copy the odd DVD, purely to test the copyright protection or lack of, and now, through no fault of his own is universally known as ‘Knock off Nigel’ I fear this is a tar that is going to stick for quite some time to come. Poor lad.

    One just can’t help but chuckle 🙂

  7. yes, ‘fiddling phil’ is the guy that produces all the glorious DVD “introductions” on the DVDs you buy at the ‘entertainment’ store… from the £20 one, to the £5 on, that has been reduced to that because it was far too expensive when it originally came out!!

    I remember a day, ages ago, when you ‘put on a DVD’ you went almost imeediatly to the start menu..

    Now there is so much rubbish at the start of a DVD you paid *good money* for, that it *encourages* people to get a ‘cheaper copy’, just to avoid it!

    **every single time** these companies say it is ‘impossible to copy’, they are proved wrong! – they say they are ‘losing money to pirates’ – I wonder how much money they are ‘losing to’ the people that sell them these protection schemes!

    If they put this money into REDUCING the price of DVDs, they will then BEAT the pirates at their own game – Namely enabling people to buy a good product at a price they can afford…

  8. A major factor in people buying knock-off DVDs and CDs is that they do not perceive they are getting value for money in paying £20 for something which costs 20 pence to manufacture. The media companies retort that customers are not paying for the physical hardware, but effectively licensing a product. If that is the case, how about a commitment from all the music, video and software companies to replace any scratched disks, without questions, for ever?

  9. swine of an advert how the hell is that going to change anyones mind about buying pirate dvd’s it’s completely stupid and i can promise will not stop one person buying them it’s almost as funny as – pirate dvd’s fund terrorism.

  10. If that were to happen in real life, I think the name “Knock-out Nigel” would be more appropriate!

  11. As “officer dibble” pointed out, this ad is fine unless you happen to be called Nigel. My boyfriend is called Nigel and he doesnt download or buy dodgy dvds. He works hard and doesnt spend all his time in the pub. This ad has made him a laughing stock at work and with his mates. Why couldn’t they use a non name like knock-off numpty?

  12. Totally agree with jc. The ad fails in it’s intent to discourage copyright theft and only succeeds in victimising people named Nigel. I cannot think of any other campaign where an advertiser has used shame to make a point and focused so much attention on a named individual. A recent advert cataloguing the trail of “A cheap packet of fags” did mention names, but in a transient, non-memorable way. (What was the name of the person first seen?). To quote “Beer mats with cheeky messages poking fun at Nigel types are part of the multimedia offensive.” I think offensive is the operative word.

  13. How can we stop this? it’s a bit unfair picking on one name like that. What about the Knock-off Ninja? who started this off?

  14. The TV advert suggests that if you buy knock off DVDs you would “rob your own gran”.


    What a stupid attempt to combat piracy. Is anyone who does it going to be suddenly shocked or shamed into no longer downloading copyright music??

    Nigel rocks. His only mistake is of course that he buys knock off DVDs. Everyone knows that downloading them is free and gives you perfect quality. *wink*

  15. What about:

    Rich Fuck, Money Grabbing Record Industry Rick?

    Or Keep All The Money for Myself Movie Industry Mike?

    Or I’m a Major Shareholder Slut Susan?

    Not “quite” as catchy, but you get my POINT?

  16. Good grief, just realised how old this is and they’re still peddling the ads on yahoo.

    Interestingly, although the site is registered to a lara joseph (an email address is given above – I don’t know if it’s right) the address it’s registered to apparently houses offices of Universal. But why do I have to rummage around whois records? Because (unlike the energy hog site), nowhere does the KoN site tell me who made it or give contact details. And the site isn’t even registered to a company name. And if there’s one thing I hate more than wasting my life sitting through an advert every time I want to watch an episode of my (paid for) DVD, and one thing I hate more than DVDs that won’t play on my laptop (so my daughter can’t watch Bagpuss while we’re away – thanks Universal) it’s multinational companies that preach at me while trying to remain anonymous.

    Incidentally, I haven’t had any of the above problems with pirated DVDs. All I want is a reasonable product at a reasonable price and I’ll pay (I generally do).

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