Exhibitionism is in, and if you don’t believe me check out the net. – myspace.com; facebook.com; flickr.com etc. All, what we in the business call, UGC – that’s adspeak for User Generated Content. In my day you kept your snapshots in a scrap book and pics of ‘me’ doing stupid things were totally banned from sight. I remember ‘me’ in bathers, a replica of a skeleton in budgie smugglers, I looked like a contestant in an Ironman contest sponsored by World Famine Relief – you keep those shots well out of prying eyes. Then there was Auntie Joan who set her hair on fire at her birthday party, some people said that the number of candles on the cake contributed to a fire hazard – the pics however are spectacular.

So, it is with a great deal of mystery that I look at the photo selections on these websites. Not that I am a regular visitor, I’m not. I just got sucked in by the USC anachronism, but that’s another story. After my quick perusal I won’t pretend that I was shocked, but I was disturbed. Why would the ‘Y’ Gen believe that the world population would want to view them in a drunken stupor with Tommy hanging from their ample breasts? It’s got me beat, but then again I’m a baby boomer what would I know?

Actually there is one thing I do know and if you haven’t figured it out yet I’ve got news for you. Once you’re up there in cyberspace you’re public property. Don’t be surprised if you appear as the star for a famous brand like Virgin. If you recoiled in horror I’d be surprised. I’d also be shocked if many of you ‘Y’Geners would like to be the celebrity pinup for Virgin Mobile or any other such organisations, without being asked or paid. Take fifteen year old US student Alison for example. When her Aussie mates informed her she’d become one of the stars of Virgin’s latest Australian mobile campaign, Alison didn’t like it one bit. Her pic had been innocently posted on flickr.com by a friend and then used by Virgin’s Ad Agency under the headline copy, “Dump your pen friend” She’s suing the company and its UK parent claiming “grief, humiliation and damage to her reputation”.

So what is the law? Well strictly speaking Virgin Mobile acted within its legal rights because the photographer, in using the site, had released their images for commercial use under a ‘Creative Common’ licence and they were credited in the campaign. However the complications keep coming. The EU and the United Nations have not yet agreed on international jurisdiction for the internet so if there is to be a trial, where would it be held? It gets far worse and it’s a mind field.

So can I, a simple marketer deliver some advise to all and sundry. If you’re not prepared to see yourself waving from a billboard, advertising the latest pornographic website, give away the idea of becoming a Paris Hilton. If you’re photo isn’t posted, you won’t be embarrassed and you won’t experience “grief and humiliation”. You won’t have lost a moment of fame; you’ll be happily ensconced in local popularity and the pen pals of the world will be safe.

Next time the didgy comes out, pull your head in and stick your bum in the air, no one will recognise you that way… I think?