Nike, Twitter Ads and You: 3 Ways to Get Ready to Expose Yourself (#Ad Is Coming!)
Nike is the first company in the UK to have one of their Twitter campaigns banned for not being clearly marked as advertisement. While Nike argued that the sports stars in question were well-known to have paid endorsement deals, the Advertising Standards Authority had this to say about the tweets from their accounts:
“…it was understood from its investigation that the final content of the tweets was ‘agreed with the help of a member of the Nike marketing team’.
‘We considered that the Nike reference was not prominent and could be missed,’ said the ASA. ‘We considered there was nothing obvious in the tweets to indicate they were Nike marketing communications.’
The watchdog added: ‘In the absence of such an indication, for example #ad, we considered the tweets were not obviously identifiable as Nike marketing communications and therefore concluded they breached the [advertising] code. The ads must no longer appear. We told Nike to ensure that its advertising was obviously identifiable as such’”.
You getting this? Are you hearing the death knoll yet?
This UK advertising standards group is certainly leading the way in many respects when it comes to more truth in advertising. It’s recent rulings against ads including Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington for anti-aging foundation is yet another example. Excessive airbrushing to improve skin’s appearance within a product advertisement misconstrues the promised deliverable of the product. No, the product didn’t do that – Photoshop probably did.
“Why does this matter?”, you might be asking. We “all” know stars are endorsed. And, what, we’re quibbling over make-up? I mean, seriously, who cares? Isn’t all advertising an idealized version of reality? Do people have nothing better to do than attack poor, hapless companies just trying to find a nut, who are simply using modern tools (social media and airbrushing) to put their best foot forward? Can’t regulators just leave good business people alone to do their thing?
Well, turns out the answer is yes, it matters. Not everyone “knows”, especially younger consumers who have not yet developed a cynical knowing about what they read. Trust is a viable tool and it should not be abused. Leveraging a celebrity’s trust for dollars without disclosure is abusive. Making your ads appear real even though they are not is not cool.
Turns out, advertising isn’t actually allowed to be lying. We’re “quibbling” because people make buying decisions based on the perceived benefit that these ads depicts. Both the sports and make-up sectors are multi-billion industries and they have a serious dog in this hunt – big town cha-ching is involved here! These industries (and often, the associated professional organizations that support the industry) are pulling out their lawyers and lobbying dollars in a big push to shut down this entire approach. You know, the honest, disclosing approach.
#Ad Hashtag – Your Nemesis or a Welcome Shift?
My favorite part about the above Nike exchange is the mention of the #ad hashtag. There are movements that are actually pushing to require companies to identify how a model has been airbrushed in pictures too. Hmmm…well, that could certainly help clear things up, wouldn’t it?
The good news is that you can use social media to take the high ground here. It’s a perfect medium to discuss these shifts in advertising and you can own this conversation if you want to. It’s a great way to do outreach, to build authenticity, and to strengthen relationships, all things that help when even your most sincere intent gets misunderstood in your advertising.
Devotion and brand loyalty are wonderful insulators against unintended consequences. They won’t necessarily stop a freight train that you begged to run you down when you authorized implementation of the other more iffy stuff, but it’s time for you to face it – those questionable practices just need to stop.
So, do you support full-disclosure? Do you think advertising goes too far? And, here’s the $64K question – would your advertising efforts withstand the complete light of day that a #ad hashtag could bring? If you aren’t sure, keep reading for some tips on how to get ready to be exposed.
#1 – Lead the Conversation and Disclose Now
Start talking about this – blogging, social media blurbs, interviews. It’s an elephant in the room and it’s a leading edge topic. Be leading edge. Develop a strategy and a policy, both from within your boardroom and from without with your contractors and partners (and customers). Talk about it at your professional trade meetings too – ask them to quit spending money to avoid the future. Honesty is not a disease that needs to be avoided or cured.
Disclose now. Start using a #ad tag and see what happens. You might very well be surprised that your fans love it, find it refreshing, and relish that they are doing business with a stand-up company. If you haven’t tried it, you don’t know. Go find out what your fans feel about this and do the high road thing. If you can’t survive in a full-disclosure world, what exactly are you doing that is so nefarious that it can’t be discussed? Stop doing that and disclose now.
#2 – Sell Something Awesome and Be Proud of What You Sell (and How You Sell It)
If you’ve got a great product or service, be proud of it. Get customer testimonies to sell your great stuff. Talk about it. Metaphorically look consumers in the eye and say “Yes, I’m selling this and I am proud to be. Wanna buy it?”. If your advertising practices would embarrass you or bring shame on your brand, why are you doing them? Have some pride in what you do.
As a follow up to that – be a good company. Take care of your employees, be aware of your community footprint, have good refund policies, demonstrate world-class customer service, be decent. It’s not just business as usual and it’s not just doing what “works.” You are engaging with human beings – have some respect, and maybe even some compassion and love too.
#3 – Drive With Value Instead of Deception
Yes, you might end up at a disadvantage in the marketplace if all your competitors are playing unfair and you are not. If everyone else deceives or fudges the truth a little or kicks the line or whatever silly euphemism you use to justify being a jerk, you might have to deal with it. Take a stand and drive with value, not deception. Period. Make it your standard bearer, a statement of quality and value. You don’t need lies when you’re awesome.
If you’ve done #1 and #2, you will be in a better position, sales-wise, to weather the pending disclosure storm, because this stuff isn’t going away. Enough lobbying money might delay it, but social media is a force to be reckoned with. The trend is toward more, rather than less, disclosure. Even if regulators don’t step in, your audience wants it. Ultimately, it gets down to this: Spin isn’t the answer – continuous improvement is. Drive with value instead of deception.
Social Levels the Playing Field
People talk. Reputations turn on a dime. Social is a double-edged sword. One heroic gesture can put you on the map. One false move and you’re toast. The shift in public sentiment toward your brand can change overnight. Grey isn’t really that good of a color to bank on anymore.
If you use little kids in sweat shops to make your products, don’t spend more money to hide that – quit doing it. If your product is cheap and breaks down even though you charge a lot for it, build a better product. If your tech line is populated with hacks who don’t know squat, improve your training program.
Relying on secrecy to preserve your revenue model is a risky proposition and is worth rethinking. Take steps to live in a full-disclosure world. Start with these 3 suggestions and go from there. Happy exposing!
Til next time,
Vicki @Smartwoman Flaugher
[graphics by jcoterhals]