A Thought (Or Warning) About Future Advertising On Social Media

Over the last few years social media has been used as a pummeling stone for many an activists tool box. It doesn’t matter the organization or affiliation. All that mattered was whether or not the “activist” could impose their will upon what ever the subject matter was which they deemed as “their” movement of choice. Right, left, middle ______ (fill in the blank) it’s been used by all, granted, some with more frequency and fervor than others.

Usually the number one call (or tool) used are the across-the-board calls for boycotting of the now targeted, bulls-eyed offending person, service, product, or company. Sometimes, the call is for all.

More often than not businesses of all stripes will do “whatever it takes” as to make it stop. Even if they didn’t do anything wrong to begin with. For in business one of the first rules is: Never let your business, yourself, or employees be seen doing anything, or promoting anything, that could cost you business. Period.

It’s what I call the “Rule 1.A”  of business. For if Rule 1 is – don’t lose money, and Rule 2 is – see Rule 1. Failing to understand there is Rule 1.A can lose you more business, or money, faster than Rule 2 can ever be applied.

So here we are today with businesses (or brands) as squeamish as ever when it comes to the possibility that their products or services could be seen, or inadvertently be interpreted, in some form of “bad light” (think of all the pixellated logos you see throughout television programming) now are facing what I believe is the first real-time example showing the potential for harming, or disgracing a company, product, or brand that may have taken years, if not decades to create.

Why? Algorithmic insertion marketing. Social media’s #1 raison d’être for extracting monetary gains via the “ads for eyeballs” model.

So what makes me bring up this contemplation today? Fair question, and it’s this: The “Kidnapping” which took place in Chicago that was broadcast live on Facebook™.

Personally, I now deem this as Facebook’s not so political bias moment for reasons you can judge for yourself.

I make this observation based on the story written in The Guardian™ a few days ago and Facebook’s public statement in response. Too my eye and ear, what was reported had the all the elements for a true “Wait…What?” moment.

I read, and re-read FB’s response so many times I was going cross-eyed, and yet, I still needed to read it again just to make sure I couldn’t interpret it any other way. I’m still shocked.

In this report from The Guardian, Facebook refused to explain (“refused” meaning not sounding like utter nonsense) why the live streaming torture video wasn’t taken down sooner. As I inferred, it isn’t that they refused to answer, it’s what they did state as a reason that was far more alarming. Here is what was given as an explanation by a spokeswoman for the company. To wit:

“We do not allow people to celebrate or glorify crimes on Facebook and have removed the original video for this reason. In many instances, though, when people share this type of content, they are doing so to condemn violence or raise awareness about it. In that case, the video would be allowed.”

Got that? Again, don’t take my interpretation. Re-read it for yourself and try not to think “Wait…What?” for yourself.

And if you’re an advertiser on that platform and you experienced a slight case of indigestion as you read it? Congratulations is all I’ll say, because it proves you may indeed still have some sense of reality about unintended consequences and your business. Here’s why:

In that above statement there’s a defense for letting it be viewed or passed around. e.g., “In many instances, though, when people share this type of content, they are doing so to condemn violence or raise awareness about it. In that case, the video would be allowed.”

So with that reasoning it is also very plausible, as well as highly likely based on what happened, and the reasoning articulated by a spokesperson representing FB, that videos such as this may indeed happen again with FB’s blessing if they deemed it met the aforementioned criteria in their eyes.

Does anyone else see the implications here? For if that is so? Is it too far out to go on-a-limb to rationalize that maybe since everything is becoming more, and more “sponsored” (after-all that’s how “free” is paid for) that a video such as this can (or will) come across a users “news” feed or whatever it’ll be called at the time with some form of promotional advertising associated with it?

Think I’m off base or just making a brouhaha out of nothing? Fair point. So let’s use the visual (since that’s what this was) and I’ll add my own example for instructive purposes only and ask you to see just how far off-base my concerns are. ready?

(Image source from the afore referenced Guardian article)


This video brought to you by ______________ (fill in the most politically incorrect phobic corporation of choice here – along with its tagline.) Also: If it’s you? Better hope your tagline doesn’t enhance the offensiveness making matters even worse. Think about it.

See what I mean? Or should I say, “Are you feeling it?” For that’s the reason why you may have had that moment of queasiness earlier. And again, if you did? Congratulations – for it proves you’re thinking.

If I were to put on my consulting hat and was facing a gathering of companies seeking advice for advertising in the coming months here’s how I would open the meeting:

I would show the above picture on the large screen behind me along with the “This video brought to you by _______” then state the following…

“If you’re an advertiser, or brand this should be viewed as a warning sign (adorned with big flashing letters and blinkers) for the potential of outright PR disasters in the not so distant future, although that “future” may-in-fact be already here.”

Then: I wouldn’t make another sound or movement for what would seem as uncomfortably long time. Then I might proceed with the following…

“In the “ads for eyeballs” model it’s inherent that every feature, every note, article, banner, whatever, must be paid for by an advertiser in one form or another. For “Free” to the end-user usually means “paid for” by an advertiser. And advertisers such as yourselves don’t pay for anything unless your names are attached to it in some form or fashion, which only makes sense. So now here’s the quandary:

If targeted ads have now shown their worth (as in not worth it) that even the largest ad buyer on the globe P&G™ has opted out for more saturating coverage as opposed to targeted. (not forgetting this was social media’s touchstone value proposition) That means algorithmic based insertion of ads should now be the de facto model of choice.

And if that’s true? That means based on algorithmic models (how many clicks, age group, et cetera, et cetera) the most politically incorrect phobic of companies may/can/will? find themselves inserted into, or guilty by association in videos such as the above. It’s a very reasonable conclusion. And being so “reasonable” makes it ever the more concerning.

However, concerning as that may be? What should be far more concerning to you as advertisers is FB’s official statement as to its legitimacy of not only not being taken down with immediacy, but rather, why similar incidents may in fact not be taken down at all if FB deems it.

Remember, as per FB’s own spokesperson: “In many instances, though, when people share this type of content, they are doing so to condemn violence or raise awareness about it. In that case, the video would be allowed.”

So with that in mind here’s what you must now comprehend: It may be you, and your ad dollars, touted boldly as the sponsor for bringing such content to millions with said content not being taken down until far after the damage (as in a negative affect about your brand, company, or service) may in fact have already been done.

For you may only find out about it after the fact. And “after” may be well after., remembering the above stayed up some 30 minutes before outrage finally caused it to be taken down. “Outrage” being a fluid term. What if a level of outrage wasn’t hit for an hour? 24? A week? Or, as per FB might deem it “appropriate” and should be allowed to stay up? All being brought to them by your ad dollars and stated as so.

But then again, “social media” activists or causes will always take your explanation that it “Wasn’t your fault!” or “Your company would never stand or support such things!” first, when, or if, it could be shown it was only some stupid “robot” that inserted your ad, correct?”

I leave it there and ask you to ponder the above for your own conclusions.

© 2017 Mark St.Cyr

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