Friday, 26 April 2013

Ethics in Advertising: Twitter

Nope, that’s not intentionally an oxymoron, although it can be easily mistaken for one.

There a number of subjects that can fall under this title, none more so than social media. Marketing and advertising are often at the forefront of boundary-pushing when it comes to challenging what society deems acceptable, and this has only become more common in recent years thanks to the emergence of social media and the power of the hashtag.


#fail: When Twitter Goes Wrong

There are plenty of examples of ‘hashtags fails’, and most of the time they can end up becoming a funny spoof version of the intended response. One example of this is Waitrose, who last year launched the trend #ishopatwaitrosebecause. Instead of comments about their ethical ranges and organic meat, the majority of tweets went along the lines of this...

#ishopatwaitrosebecause nowhere else can I hear the sentence ‘Orlando, put the papaya down!'

#ishopatwaitrosebecause Clarissa’s pony simply refuses to eat ASDA value straw

#ishopatwaitrosebecause buying food amongst the commonfolk tends to ruin one’s appetite


Sometimes however, the backlash can be a little more serious. Twitter has become a very powerful source for breaking news, and incidents such as the shooting of several film-goers in Aurora, Colo., during a Batman screening begin trending within minutes. Fashion retailer CelebBoutique jumped on the bandwagon with a spectacularly inappropriate tweet:
marketing  advertising  ethics ads waitrose twitter blog tweet celebboutique
CelebBoutique's ill-advised tweet following the shootings in the USA
Their PR people quickly removed said tweet after being inundated with angry comments, and claimed that they were totally unaware of the shooting at the time of posting. There have, however, been other cases where hopping onto a trend with a bad taste tweet has been intentional, such as when President’s Choice (a Canadian supermarket) promoted their Halloween range using Hurricane Sandy:
marketing  advertising  ethics ads waitrose twitter blog tweet presidentschoice
President's Choice taking advantage of the Hurricane Sandy trend
Another more recent example is the Boston bombings, where this unwise tweeter decided to promote a golf tournament:
marketing  advertising  ethics ads waitrose twitter blog tweet golf boston bostonmarathon bostonbombing
If we look at other channels used by companies worldwide to promote their products, we would quickly discover that they have several methods in place to check and double check everything that gets sent out to ensure it stays within the brand’s guidelines. When it comes to Twitter however, and social media in general, there often doesn't seem to be much, if any, control over what is being sent out. An intern or inexperienced assistant at a huge global company can within minutes gain access to a corporate account and become responsible for that brand’s image on what is arguably the most powerful marketing channel available.

Should there be stricter controls put in place? You wouldn't see a TV ad that uses a tragedy to their advantage, so why should Twitter be any different?

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