Caitlin Fitzsimmons Online editor

Caitlin covers social media, marketing and technology and is BRW's social media editor. She has worked as a journalist in Sydney, London and San Francisco, writing for titles including The Guardian and The Australian Financial Review.

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Adecco swiped my brand for global marketing campaign: travel blogger

Published 24 June 2013 11:26, Updated 25 June 2013 07:24

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Adecco swiped my brand for global marketing campaign: travel blogger

Lifeguard in Rio de Janeiro is one of the jobs highlighted in Adecco’s Around the World in 80 Jobs marketing video. Photo: Getty Images

A travel blogger has accused global recruitment firm Adecco Group of ripping off his brand, image and ideas in its “Around the World in 80 Jobs” campaign.

The company, which has trademarked the phrase “Around the World in 80 Jobs”, is running a global contest. The eight winners, due to be announced this week, will perform 10 jobs each in different countries around the world.

In the first round, contestants play online games to test their aptitude for various jobs, including one set in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. In the second phase, they create and upload application videos.

The campaign is similar to Tourism Queensland’s Best Job in the World contest in 2009, which recruited an “island caretaker” to live on Hamilton Island for six months and blog about the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef. This year Tourism Australia ran a sequel campaign with six “best jobs in the world” in several states and territories.

The problem is that travel blogger Turner Barr already has an established website called Around the World in 80 Jobs and he owns that domain name, though not the trademark.

Barr has written an angry blog post titled “how I got fired from the job I invented” and called on supporters to spread the message through social media using the hashtags #80jobs and #makeitright. His post has been widely shared on Twitter, with outrage directed at Adecco.

“Recently, I was both astonished and demoralised to find that my entire brand, image and web personality was swiped for use in a marketing campaign by some massive multi-billion dollar a year company, without ever being asked for permission or acknowledged,” Barr says.

“The video for their marketing campaign was particularly creepy for me, as even my age and personality didn’t escape the level of detail spent on creating this doppelganger (they used a paid actor of course).”

The video, which cannot be embedded, features a young British man decrying the state of the job market since the global financial crisis. Jobs shown in the video include teacher in Nambia, tuk-tuk driver in Bangkok, lifeguard in Rio de Janeiro, art gallery manager in New York and winemaker in the Clare Valley of South Australia.

The jobs appearing in Adecco’s competition video include winemaking in the Clare Valley of South Australia.Jeni Port

On the ‘about’ page on Barr’s website he describes the impact of the global financial crisis on his life and travels and lists the jobs he has completed, such as Christmas tree associate in the US, festival toilet attendant in Holland and elephant volunteer in Thailand.

Barr says he has poured his “blood, sweat, tears, energy and money” into this project for two years. His site is no longer the first thing that comes up when you search for his brand name on Google and he has had to deal with Adecco contestants contacting him in the mistaken belief that he is part of the company.

“With hard work I strived, and almost succeeded, in creating my dream job,” Barr says. “I feel like my dream job has been taken from me in order for some company to promise it to others for corporate marketing gain. I have, to date, never been publicly acknowledged, compensated, credited, or apologised to, by this company.”

Barr’s post was published last Thursday, June 20. On Saturday Adecco posted an apology on its Facebook page, describing the details of the campaign as a “mistake”. The company says it has contacted Barr, though it has yet to reach agreement with him.

“We have seen and heard your sincere concern about our recent youth employment initiative and take your feedback very seriously,” the Facebook statement says. “We deeply regret if we hurt Turner Barr. This was never our intention when we set up our “Around the World in 80 Jobs” contest. We clearly see that Turner is an inspiration to many people. We feel there should be more of such initiatives that inspire people to live their dreams and achieve their ambitions.

“Unfortunately, we moved forward with a name and contest that clearly upset Turner and his community. We sincerely apologise for that mistake. When Turner contacted us about his concern, and we understood the full situation, we immediately engaged with him to try to make things right. Unfortunately, we have been unable to find common ground so far. Most of all, we are sorry that an initiative we truly care about – youth unemployment – has been negatively received.”

Commenters on the Facebook thread say that “sorry” doesn’t mean anything without meaningful action, such as cancelling the trademark application and taking down the campaign.

BRW understands that Adecco Australia is waiting on further information from its global headquarters.

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