As the usual outlets for advertising sometimes appear doomed — see New Orleans’ Times-Picayune, or Dish Network’s latest innovation — what’s an exec in need of a megaphone to do? Advertising is trying hard to adapt to the continuing media fragmentation, but what if their “innovation” is actually illegal?
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is taking a hard look at companies’ practice of offering incentives in exchange for Facebook “likes” and Twitter tweets. Ad guidelines already require a notice, like “#paid” on purchased tweets, which calls out advertisers who’d prefer to not expose their astroturf roots. So if, as a USA Today story said today, Target gives free samples to people who “like” their page, and Amazon gives $3 video credits in exchange for a tweet, that’s an advert and subject to the law.
This is the squishy underbelly of commercial use of social media, and why I insist that all marketing is communication but not all communication is marketing. If that’s not true, everything is marketing, and who cares if people cannot tell the difference between advertising and truth?
Strength or bliss, it’s still ignorance.