One of the most powerful advertising platforms around at the moment seems to be Twitter. Companies have taken advantage of its viral abilities by paying celebrities thousands of pounds for posting just one tweet mentioning their brand or product. This shows the extent companies will go to attach their name to a famous person.
Using a celebrity to advertise a product isn’t anything new: Liz Hurley has been the face of Estee Lauder for years, while David Beckham is known for promoting umpteen products, from adidas to Calvin Klein. The football (soccer) player was estimated to have earned more than $20m in 2010 from endorsements alone. Twitter has opened a whole new world of advertising, where the rich and famous can make themselves and their sponsors even richer.
Tweeting for sales is a huge industry in the US. Celebrities including Kim Kardashian and rapper Snoop Dogg are amongst the two richest tweeters. It has been rumoured that Kardashian is paid $10,000 for one single tweet mentioning her sponsored product. However, that is in America; the advertising standards are much stricter here in the UK.
The Advertising Standards Agency (ADA) aims to prevent the broadcasting of misleading campaigns that “distort the economic behaviour of consumers”. Most of us can tell if something is a publicity stunt, but the ADA is there to protect more vulnerable customers. They cannot actually enforce any fines, but they are backed up by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), who are able to take action. The OFT can apply for an injunction to have a campaign removed, or mount a prosecution under the Consumer Protection From Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
In the news recently, we have seen some very obvious false advertising. Celebrities including Katie Price, Cher Lloyd and Rio Ferdinand posted photos on twitter featuring themselves posing with a Snickers bar with the slogan ‘You’re not you, when you’re hungry’. The ADA is currently investigating this campaign.
In addition, Range Rover learnt that tweets can be priceless after getting more than 40 celebrities to tweet about their experience driving one of their new car models. Celebrities including Lilly Allen, Ben Shepherd and Peter Andre all took part in the campaign, as well as fashion designer Henry Holland who tweeted rather obviously “CAN’T WAIT FOR MY NEW RANGE ROVER..!!!”.
What are the consequences?
If any company misleads their customers using false advertising, it is considered a criminal offence under the Consumer Protection Regulations. Regulation 3 refers to “unfair commercial practices”, which it describes as any which “contravene the requirements of professional diligence; and materially distorts or is likely to materially distort the economic behaviour of the average consumer with regard to the product.”
If a company is guilty of this, the standard maximum fine is £5,000, but in more serious cases, a 2 year prison sentence could be enforced.
Despite the fact that there haven’t been any convictions against advertisers under the 2008 regulations, the OFT is not afraid to step in.
How has is backfired on companies?
It is clear that companies and businesses must embrace social media in order to increase their popularity. It seems that a majority of people, especially youngsters, are using social networking sites like Twitter to get all their news feeds and entertainment information from. This could mean that the brands’ own websites are getting less viewers. Twitter is one of the quickest ways for news, as well as scandal to spread. This can be an advantage for businesses, whose brands could potentially become internationally recognisable almost overnight if it becomes viral of if a celebrity happens to comment on it. However, this can easily backfire on a company, causing damaging effects.
A good example of this happening was McDonald’s twitter campaign, advertising the quality of their meat. However, this soon lead to many people posting negative comments about the fast food chain, nicknaming it ‘McFail’, This quickly became a viral, leaving McDonalds to sort out the mess they initiated from just a few tweets. (See our infographic for more on this.)
Are standard adverts as effective any more?
A company is left wide open to criticism and complaints on Twitter. A study has shown that every disappointed customer will share their negative experience with around ten people. However, by using Twitter, potentially hundreds of people will know.
The standard billboard or TV avert is now becoming less effective, with social media techniques taking over. Twitter seems like the most effective way to communicate and advertise in a social space. Businesses want their fans to be able to communicate, discuss and share their product using Twitter, compared to just seeing an advert and maybe telling one or two friends.
As social media grows ever bigger, it seems that the line between editorial and advertising is blurring. This makes it difficult for us to escape from advertising.