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Online videos heat up the sandwich wars

Mon., Feb. 4, 2008, midnight

Significant online buzz has followed the advertising war launched via Web videos by fast food chain Quiznos against its chief rival, Subway.

This battle has become great sport for geeks but is also causing concern among advertising professionals, as noted in a story published by The New York Times.

Other brands have bashed competitors in the past. This is one of the first cases in which a company invited users to generate their own bashing videos.

The Quiznos effort was an online contest that made it clear the videos should depict Quiznos sandwiches as “superior” to Subway’s. Subway later sued Quiznos and iFilm, the Web site owned by Viacom that ran the contest, saying that many of the homemade videos made false claims and depicted its brand in a derogatory way.

Other ads also produced by Quiznos that portray everyday people choosing Quiznos over Subway were also targeted in the same lawsuit.

As the Times story noted, the battle raises the question: Quiznos did not make the insulting submissions, so should it be held liable for user-generated content created at its behest?

If the answer is yes, that could bring a quick death to these popular contests, advertising executives say. Consumer brands like Doritos, Dove, Toyota and Heinz have run promotions of this sort because they generate publicity, usually at a low cost to the advertiser, and sometimes lead to clever spots that work well on television.

“Let’s just hope that as collateral damage it doesn’t kill the entire genre of competitive advertising,” Brad Brinegar, chief executive of McKinney, an ad agency in Durham, N.C., that doesn’t work with Subway or Quiznos, told the Times.

In its lawsuit, Subway contends that the consumer videos — which were posted at a site Quiznos had set up called, as well as on iFilm — contained “literally false statements” and depicted Subway in a “disparaging manner.”

Scientology site attacked

A band of hackers calling themselves “Anonymous” has launched a denial of service attack against the Church of Scientology’s Web site.

The attack was launched in mid-January, in part to seek media attention and to “save people from Scientology by reversing the brainwashing,” according to a Web page maintained by Anonymous.

Anonymous claims to have knocked the church’s Web site offline with a distributed denial-of-service attack. That happens when many computers bombard the victim’s server with requests, overwhelming it with data in the hope of ultimately knocking the system offline. True to its name, Anonymous does not disclose the identities of its members.

The attacks were spurred by the church’s efforts to remove from YouTube videos of movie star Tom Cruise professing his admiration for the religion, according to an Anonymous video manifesto posted on YouTube.

Feds authorize counter-hack force

In January President Bush signed a directive that expands the intelligence community’s role in monitoring Internet traffic to protect against a rising number of attacks on federal agencies’ computer systems.

According to a Washington Post story, the classified directive authorizes the intelligence agencies, in particular the National Security Agency, to monitor the computer networks of all federal agencies — including ones they have not previously monitored.

Until now, the government’s efforts to protect itself from cyber-attacks — which range from hackers to organized crime to foreign governments trying to steal sensitive data — have been piecemeal. Under the new initiative, a task force headed by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) will coordinate efforts to identify the source of cyber-attacks against government computer systems. As part of that effort, the Department of Homeland Security will work to protect the systems and the Pentagon will devise strategies for counterattacks against the intruders.


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