If you ever watch legally-bought DVDs in the UK (or, I believe, Australia), you’ll be painfully familiar with this short film.

I’ve been plagued by this ad hundreds of times.

And because I’ve just bought a DVD box containing every episode of TV crime drama Cracker on 11 discs, I’m being plagued by it again.

You pop in your DVD, sit back and – before you get to the feature menu – you have to sit through an advert telling you not to steal.

And there’s nothing you can do about it.

You can’t skip it, unless you watch it on a computer.

You can’t press a button saying you understand, and that you’d rather not see the ad again.

The bargain’s simple. Every time you watch any of the 11 discs, you have to sit through the ad.

No ifs. No buts.

And I think it’s a mistake.

Don’t hog the platform – it destroys trust

I think making viewers sit through a whole minute of moralising is a mistake.

Why?

  1. Most illegally copied DVDs probably won’t include the ant-theft film. So the message isn’t getting to the people who are most likely to watch pirated movies.
  2. Robbing the viewer of choice destroys trust. If you’ve paid for a legal copy of a film, it’s fair to have supporting material – but it’s your DVD, so you should have the choice to skip it.

I think there are a couple of useful points for online copywriters in here too.

  1. Don’t make visitors sit through flash introductions or similar presentations on your website home page. You’re robbing them of choice, and that is more likely to drive them into a competitors’ arms.
  2. Get to the point when you write. Always ask yourself whether you can simply chop off your first paragraph (or two). Readers – just like viewers – are impatient to get to the main feature.

But there’s one point that troubles me rather more.

Perhaps you can help with it?

It’s those subscription forms that emerge onto your screen soon after you’ve landed on a website.

The evidence suggests they increase subscription rates, but I think the technique looks cheap.

Could it backfire for a more upmarket brand?