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Jason Amundsen of Locally Laid Eggs distributes feed for chickens at their winter barn near Wrenshall on Sunday. Locally Laid Egg Co. is one of four small businesses competing for a Super Bowl television ad spot. Voting for the contest ended Sunday, but the winner most likely will not be revealed until a few days before the Super Bowl. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Putting their eggs in one 'Bowl': Locally Laid waits for word on Super Bowl ad

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Putting their eggs in one 'Bowl': Locally Laid waits for word on Super Bowl ad
Cloquet Minnesota 122 Avenue C 55720

Now the waiting game begins.

The final votes were cast online Sunday, and the Locally Laid Egg Co. of Wrenshall soon will learn if it or one of three other finalists has been selected as the winner of a 30-second television spot during the Super Bowl. What's on the line? Airtime estimated to be worth more than $3 million plus the complimentary services of advertising professionals who will help one lucky small business make the most of the valuable spot.

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Intuit, the sponsor of the Super Bowl ad contest, hasn't said exactly when it will publicly announce the results, but the company probably will drag out the suspense until nigh game time to maximize its exposure.

Although Locally Laid limits its distribution to within 400 miles of Wrenshall, Jason Amundsen, who runs the company along with his wife, Lucie, says its message of supporting high-quality local food producers is resonating with people across the nation.

Despite its racy name, Amundsen said Locally Laid is banking on its wholesome message to carry the day.

"If you believe that hens should be able to exercise and forage in the open, if you believe that we should produce food as locally and sustainably as possible, then you are a really good fit for us," he said.

But Locally Laid faces stiff competition from three other small businesses, all employing fewer than 50 people. Other finalists include Barley Labs, a manufacturer of dog treats made from spent brewery grains; Dairy Poop, the marketer of a composted manure product; and GoldieBlox, a company specializing in toys designed to interest girls in science and math.

The last of those competitors could pose an especially big challenge to Locally Laid.

GoldieBlox has achieved national notoriety in recent weeks in large part because of a legal dust-up with the Beastie Boys and a campaign that has some critics crying dirty pool.

Viral advantage

San Francisco-based GoldieBlox enjoys one big advantage over all the other finalists in the Intuit competition: an online advertising video that has gone viral and has been viewed by more than 8 million people to date. That video featured a takeoff of the Beastie Boys' hit "Girls" from their 1986 hip-hop breakthrough album, "License to Ill."

The original tune included such unenlightened lyrics as: "Girls, to do the dishes / Girls, to clean up my room / Girls, to do the laundry / Girls, and in the bathroom."

GoldieBlox set the tune to new words, including the following: "Girls who build a spaceship / Girls that code the new app / Girls that grow up knowing / That they can engineer that."

The accompanying GoldieBlox video features a girl-designed contraption inspired by the likes of Rube Goldberg.

When the surviving members of the Beastie Boys learned of the spoof, a representative of the band contacted GoldieBlox expressing concerns about copyright infringement.

The company, in turn, pre-emptively filed suit against the Beastie Boys.

In an open letter to GoldieBlox posted last Monday by Adam Horovitz and Michael Diamond, the two surviving members of the band, they expressed appreciation for the company's campaign to empower young girls.

"As creative as it is, make no mistake, your video is an advertisement that is designed to sell a product, and long ago, we made a conscious decision not to permit our music and/or name to be used in product ads," they said.

"When we tried to simply ask how and why our song 'Girls' had been used in your ad without our permission, YOU sued US," the letter went on to say.

should have known

The legal dispute was a predictable consequence of using a song without the original artist's consent, according to Denis Budniewski, executive vice president for account leadership and growth at Campbell Mithun, a Minneapolis-based ad firm.

He said his firm's legal department probably would have advised against the use of a Beastie Boys tune without permission.

"As a full-service agency, we want to ensure that artists receive the royalties they deserve for the intellectual property they produce," Budniewski said.

GoldieBlox declined the News Tribune's request for comment Wednesday and also did not respond to a series of questions that were e-mailed to it. A return email from the company said: "We are not offering interviews at this time."

In its lawsuit, GoldieBlox said its parody was designed "to comment on the Beastie Boys song and to further the company's goal to break down gender stereotypes."

But Budniewski said the social purpose claim is cloudy in the case of GoldieBlox.

"It's hard to argue it was fair use when this was done for commercial purposes," he said. "I'm not a lawyer, but they are definitely riding the coattails of the Beastie Boys for commercial benefit."

Marty Weintraub, the CEO of aimClear, a Duluth-based firm specializing in online marketing, said he believes GoldieBlox should not be allowed to benefit from exposure that was the product of misbehavior.

"They should get bounced from the contest for this," he said.

Weintraub concedes that he's hardly a neutral bystander. Although he doesn't consider Locally Laid a client, he has provided some free advice to the company. Still, Weintraub contends the actions of GoldieBlox raise some big ethical issues.

"For me, the most important thing isn't whether or not this was legal," he said. "Here's the question I'd ask: 'Is a winning viral video that may have cheated still a winner?' "

Making up

On Wednesday, Debbie Sterling, GoldieBlox's founder, sent an open letter to the Beastie Boys, announcing that the company had pulled the spoof of "Girls" from its video, after learning that the late Adam Yauch, one of the band's founding members, had expressly directed his estate not to allow his name, image or music to be used for advertising purposes.

Sterling wrote: "Although we believe our parody video falls under fair use, we would like to respect his wishes and yours. Since actions speak louder than words, we have already removed the song from our video. In addition, we are ready to stop the lawsuit as long as this means we will no longer be under threat from your legal team."

The announcement made still more national headlines, resulting in coverage by the likes of Time magazine, the New York Times and the Huffington Post.

But Budniewski said it remains to be seen whether the effort to make amends will head off further legal action.

"In today's world, when a video does go viral, you've lost control of it. That can be a great or not-so-great thing," he said.

While GoldieBlox may reap the short-term benefits of increased exposure, Budniewski asked: "Is it worth it when they're going to face potential litigation for years to come?"

Weintraub said GoldieBlox pulling the jingle from its video with only a few days left in the Intuit campaign seemed a bit of a hollow gesture.

"You can't unring a bell," he said.

Not worried

Jason Amundsen said he's not overly concerned by all the attention GoldieBlox has received.

"Just because you're mentioned in the New York Times doesn't mean you're going to win," he said. "This isn't a publicity contest. It's a voting contest."

Toward that end, Locally Laid has been encouraging its loyal supporters to cast online votes on its behalf on a daily basis.

"We believe we have a support base like no one else in this contest," Amundsen said.

As for the tactics of GoldieBlox, Amundsen had little to say except: "I don't have a chicken in that scramble."

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Peter Passi
(218) 279-5526
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