Beware the double agents of brand - Chic Spy Day 2016

Peter Shackleton

In August 1940 an English lieutenant commander of the Naval Intelligence Division (NID) was given the task of drawing up a plan to enable Britain to either communicate with Gibraltar if Spain joined the war, or to carry out sabotage attacks if they were invaded by Germany. A key concern was the possible installation of Axis radar equipment and infrared cameras in the Straits of Gibraltar, so the lieutenant commander traveled there in February 1941 under a courier’s passport to investigate and set up the cipher link back to London. The plan was code named ‘Operation Goldeneye’ and the NID officer was Ian Fleming. That operation was thought to be the starting point for Flemings’ creation of James Bond, the original ‘chic spy’.

October 5th is National Chic Spy Day, a day to celebrate all those tuxedo-clad secret agents that have graced our books and screens over the years, armed with a wealth of gadgetry, a dry martini and a wry smile. Ever since he hit bookshelves in Casino Royale (1953) and the big screen in Dr No (1962), James Bond set the standard for spies that have come (and gone) since. He has been parodied, emulated and referenced in a never-ending list of characters, books and films. From comedies such as Johnny English and Austin Powers, to references in animations such as Epic, to blockbuster films such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens[1], James Bond has, more often than not, been the template for spies the world over.

Unfortunately it’s not only legitimate references that James Bond has spawned. Since the 1990s, Bond has also been at the cutting edge of product placement. According to PQMedia, the product placement market grew by 12.8% to over $6 billion in the US alone in 2014, and is set to reach more than $11 billion by 2019. It has been part of an evolution in advertising. This shift from traditional advertising to product placement has created some innovative opportunities for brands to develop their interaction with consumers. Interactive product placement, for example, allows the viewer to click and buy immediately if, say, Bond is wearing a shirt they like.

With new opportunities, however, come new challenges and threats. What if a consumer uses click and buy but this time the content comes from an illegal content sharing site, and instead of linking to genuine products, it links to fraudulent sites? Here we have illegal content and fake products, all found within genuine content.

As innovation continues to drive the ways in which brands engage with consumers, so too comes the need to innovate how we track, identify and take down fraudulent sites. From monitoring and enforcing counterfeits across digital marketplaces, to social media sites and mobile apps, it’s an ongoing challenge to make life harder for those undertaking illicit activities, and to ensure that when users click, they click through to genuine products.

Brands really need their own 007 with a full array of gadgets and tools provided by ‘Q’. ‘M’ could have been talking about counterfeiters when she once said, they, “come from the same place as Bond, a place you say doesn't exist: the shadows!”

[1] Star Wars fans may have noted that in the latest film, the stormtrooper that Rey orders to “free her, leave the door open and to drop his blaster” is referred to as JB-007. The actor playing that stormtrooper was Daniel Craig.