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Scott Adams using strip to launch new business
Dilbert creator Scott Adams continues to push the Dilbert brand into new markets. Scott’s latest business is a file transfer service called “Dilbertfile.com” which allows users to upload large files (that can’t be sent through email) that then can be downloaded later by another user. Scott wrote on his blog back in November that he often used such services to send his art files to his syndicate and approached the tech company behind the service and worked out a deal to brand it with Dilbert characters.
To promote the new product, Scott has used his comic strip to pitch the product – irking some readers that felt Scott has crossed a line. TechFlash, a technology news blog, wrote a post wondering if newspapers will take kindly in allowing Scott to use their newspaper as a marketing ploy. They note that papers won’t allow a journalist to plug a personal project in their articles.
Scott did respond to the TechFlash post in an email, part of which is cited below:
If you’re writing about it, I’m doing my job. Actually, lots of people are blogging about it today because I intentionally violated what readers perceive as a boundary. That’s what I do, on a good day. I haven’t heard any complaints from newspapers. They would have complained in advance if they had an issue, since they see the comic a week or two before it is published. And frankly they know I push some boundaries.
As an advertisement for Dilbertfiles.com, I expect it to have a trivial impact, so no need to hate me on that level. As a creative violation of what readers expect of a comic strip, it’s an attention-getter. The fun part was seeing how many people checked the Dilbertfiles.com URL to see if it was real.
The first rule of art is that you want to make the audience “do something.” That could include laughing or crying, but it can also include talking about the art with friends, forming a book club, or in this case trying to figure out if what I did was clever or foolish. I did anticipate a strong reaction.
Using a strip to pitch a side product isn’t entirely new. In the last couple of years, Dean Young used his Blondie strip to mention his new Dagwood sandwich franchise and Michael Fry and T. Lewis mentioned their movie Over the Hedge in their comic of the same title before it was released. Of the two examples cited above, Dean received at least one complaint.