Drake dancing in hoodie on blue background Hotline bling

To Meme or Not to Meme? When content curation gets nasty

Content is the hottest topic in marketing right now but what happens when someone gets rich off aggregating other people’s work? We investigate.

Who doesn’t love a good meme: a cute little cat to get you through your afternoon at work, or that perfect gif to accent your oh-so-unique feeling in any given moment?

So, of course, when you find lots of meme-worthy bits of content, hundreds even, from all over the never-ending universe that is the Internet (capital ‘I’), people really love it. They REALLY love it. That’s why meme curators like Josh Ostrovsky and Elliot Tebele have amassed followers in the millions (just a warning for those clicking through, some of their content is slightly offensive), all waiting with baited breath to see what little piece of pop culture their professional meme-hunters have uncovered today.

I love memes. You love memes. We see them, get the gag, all have a bit of a giggle and share them along. But what happens when someone like Ostrovsky or Tebele starts to make a lot of money out of curating viral content that they didn’t make?

Well, they get into trouble is what happens. After a while, at least. As we’ve discussed in the past on this very blog, content curation is almost as important as content creation in establishing a brand that is both engaging and engaged but, as most creative people know, if you are going to use someone else’s work, credit is the key.

For those in the internet know, the beef between Tebele and meme home base Brown Cardigan is pretty common knowledge. The guys at Brown Cardigan allege (and this seems pretty obviously true) that Tebele regularly posted content they created without acknowledging them and, when they publicly asked for an explanation, he launched an all-out assault, including starting an Instagram account, aggregating meme-style content, called @beigecardigan. Yikes.

But Brown Cardigan aren’t the only ones. Since the industry seemingly turned on aggregators like the ones discussed above, it seems the winds of meme curation have changed. A cursory look at any Instagram account hosting content created by others has obvious credits in almost every caption, and this is largely thanks to the backlash against aggregators like Tebele and Ostrovsky (and, specifically, against their huge success followed by lack of interest in crediting the content they used to achieve that fame).

But what does this mean for businesses that have previously relied on user created content (which is so hot right now) or collected content as part of their offering? A prime example of this is Lorna Jane’s allegedly unauthorised use of an image created by 19 year old Queenslander Lydia Jahnke, currently before the courts. Jahnke posted the image on Instagram and tagged Lorna Jane in it, then received gifts and from the brand, and all seemed well – until Lorna Jane re-used the image (and its caption) on a range of clothing and Lydia Jahnke took them to court.

‘But I would never use someone else’s work!’ you say, clutching your content strategy close to your heart. The problem is, in the current model, you kind of have to. When Drake’s Hotline Bling video came out last week via Apple Music, it was a meme within moments. Many brands with their fingers on the pulse broke themselves off a piece of the pie, referencing the video with clever content shared on their social channels – or they simply reshared some of the funniest ones they had seen that were relevant to their brand. You know, content curation.

It’s inescapable: to stay relevant and tap into pop culture, brands must be at least familiar with what’s trending. The only way to get around awkward and potentially litigious consequences is to credit the source from which your content came – like you used to when you were at school. Seems simple now, doesn’t it?

In case it wasn’t as obvious as the meme bait in Drake’s video, we love content. We love making it, we love talking about it and we love helping you curate (and credit) it to suit your brand’s unique story. If you’d like to learn more about how we can make content part of your marketing strategy, make our hotline bling today.

Back to Posts

Content is the hottest topic in marketing right now but what happens when someone gets rich off aggregating other people’s work? We investigate.

Sense Agency
Guest Writer