Gregarious Narain is on vacation until the end of the month. We’ve got a couple guests lined up to join me in his absence, but this week was a little hectic so (truth) I did not have time to prep them properly, so this week it was just me, and a slightly shorter show.
Would you like to join us on the show? It’s pretty easy. We broadcast live on Fridays at noon eastern for about 20 minutes. I send you a link to connect to the broadcast platform in the morning along with any show notes we’ve prepared and you log in by 11:50 am for an AV check. Sometimes you’ll be joining Greg and me, other times it is just me.
What will we talk about? We are open to discussing any topic related to marketing writ rather large — digital and social media, advertising, influencer marketing, technology , but also Internet culture, consumer behavior, digital fraud, privacy, artificial intelligence. If YOU have a topic you’d like to bring to the table within that rather large brief, we’d love to build a conversation around it with you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on Facebook.
Now to this week’s topic — consumer attitudes and trust. Joining me are my two guests this week, Mr. Rogers and Captain Rogers, two icons of honest integrity.
I only have 2 topics this week, because both are both truth and lie. The first is that consumers don’t like or engage with sponsored content the same way that they do so-called organic content. I wanted to discuss this (again) this week after reading a great op ed in Ad Age, In Defense of the Lowly Hashtags #ad and #sponsored by Natalie Zfat. Written in response to the statement “nobody likes the hashtag #ad” at an industry panel (filled with marketers), she shared her pride in using #ad because it meant she was able to successfully monetize her content while creating valuable content for readers.
This strikes a chord with me because I think treating sponsored content as a second class citizen is lazy thinking. Fact: transparency and best practice would dictate that we disclose relationships that might impact an endorsement even if the FTC Guidelines did not. But also Fact: the FTC guidelines in the US and similar guidelines in other countries DO dictate that we disclose when the content we create is sponsored or influenced by payment, business relationship or free product. And finally FACT: people are not as black and white in their consumption of content as the conceit organic:good, sponsored:less good makes it seem. I have seen more than a little organic content that is AWFUL and quite a lot of amazing sponsored content.
It is not that we don’t like advertising. It’s that we don’t like bad advertising. Whether an ad or a sponsored Instagram image. It is incumbent upon us as content creators to create quality content, full stop. When it is sponsored, we disclose, because it is the right thing to do. Cap agrees!
On social media, there is no situation where you do not have to disclose that the content is sponsored. Not even for celebrities. The reason for this is that on social, we have none of the cues that inform us that the endorsement is an advertisement that we have in other media. When we see a celebrity on Ellen, we know she is pitching her new movie because that is inherent in the talk show format. When we see an athlete in logo gear, we assume that he or she is sponsored by the brand, because that is how sponsorship works at that level. When we see the same celebrity promote something on Twitter or Instagram, her post looks just like all her other posts, and just like all the other posts of all the other people using the platform. There are no cues to clue us in that this post is sponsored. When an advertisement doesn’t look like an advertisement, it must be disclosed. Just this week I ran across another article about celebrities failing to disclose, this time in the UK. This is one time where wishing won’t make it so. Wishing you didn’t have to disclose or inventing all sorts of reasons why it doesn’t apply to you won’t change the facts. Because it is all about trust. Right, Mr. Rogers?
So, while it is true that people do treat sponsored content differently, the difference, in my opinion, is largely in the minds of the creators. If we stop assuming that people view sponsored content differently, create amazing quality content and honor the trust of our readers by being honest about our business relationships, we can be proud of #ad.
This week’s other part truth part myth is also related to trust. In this case, our trust in the social platforms and websites. Axios Media Trends reported this week on Census Bureau Data that indicates Americans are less worried about online privacy, largely, the report surmised because we have become accustomed to trading it for access and services.
But we are still concerned about data privacy, security and integrity. Witness the Twitter storm caused by the fake billboards in London last week.
They struck a chord because there is an underlying cognitive dissonance between the value consumers perceive they get from Facebook and the value they are increasingly aware Facebook gets from them. GenZ is already replacing it, including on college campuses, with new “facebooks” coming online, also reported in Media Trends this week.
I have been following the digital privacy conversation for more than 20 years, sometimes closely, sometimes less so but I am convinced we are finally at the inflection point where it matters as much to consumers as it does to advocates and geeks, and it is an increasingly informed consumer who understands that there are 3 issues: privacy security and integrity. Being willing to give up a little personal data in exchange for access is a fair trade but we are no less concerned about the protection of that data.
So. The truth is Americans may be less worried about privacy in general, but it is because they have become more informed. And we are very likely still very worried about how our information is used, whether information is true and whether bad actors can breach the walls. We just are more willing to accept the risk.