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Art and Marketing All Mashed Up

Video Mashup with Dana Milbank

"The large media companies are able to get a much deeper awareness of their brand if they allow users to be submerged in their content," said Damian Hagger, vice president of content at vMix, a video site that offered images from the movie "Walk the Line" for a mash-up contest to promote the movie's DVD release.

"They want users to have a great experience, but at same time, they don't want to give away all the rights to the content for something that doesn't represent the brand very well."

That's a risk that comes with the territory, though.

When General Motors Corp. experimented with a build-your-own-Chevy Tahoe online commercial this year, environmentalists had a field day creating mash-up ads that promoted the sport-utility vehicle as a gas-guzzling polluter -- using the company's own images of the car rolling through the snow.

Top-down marketing, when the company creates a message for consumers to absorb, is an antiquated approach, said Tim Hanlon, senior vice president at Denuo, a division of the advertising firm Publicis Groupe. Consumers are savvy about the messages companies send and are now empowered to offer feedback about those products. "They don't need marketers," he said. "It's the new landscape."

Gavin Richmond, whose mash-up about Stevens was viewed more than 150,000 times on video site, said mash-up artists are able to interpret news events in a new light.

"It gives them a voice they wouldn't have otherwise," said Richmond, 34, of Baton Rouge, La. "It allows a back and forth with the people who produce the content in a way you didn't have before with film, radio or TV."

That has created an internal struggle for such groups as the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America, both of which have actively tried to curb piracy and online sharing of their copyrighted works.

"Obviously, copyright laws come into play here, but the idea of mash-up videos is obviously very popular, and film companies have been moving to harness that as a means of advertising," said Kori Bernards, a spokeswoman for the motion picture association. "We'll continue to monitor it."

In the meantime, mash-up artists are left to experiment, unsure of what the fallout might be once their creations start circulating on the Web.

Fans of the television show "Lost," for example, have been participating in regular mash-up contests at , using different scenes of the show to create unique video clips.

ABC never complained about the use of video from the show, said Molly McRoberts, 18, of San Diego, who works on the site. But then one of the participants used a song by rock band Nickelback in a mash-up video.

"Their record company sent us an e-mail saying people had used Nickelback's song and they didn't want Nickelback's songs being used," said McRoberts, who noted that no one was trying to make money off the mash-up video clip. "Why do they even care? We're just a little Web site."

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