What the world needs now…

…is another post about Heidi and Naked and Witchery menswear.

But what the hell. Here is another one.

A new sport appears to have emerged in outing some new media campaigns as puffery. (here is one example and I bet the smh is livid that they did this)

Now, I am not sure what people are upset about. That consumers are being “fooled” by ads?

Sometimes the naivete of “social media experts” is exacerbating. It is like they have never seen the underskirts  of business.  There are practices I have seen that would make you blush – and this is the type of deception that I am really against.

 – Sub-contracting out parts of your supply chain or process to save costs, that may present a danger to your consumers

– putting “fresh” products in a fridge and charging a price-premium even though it is actually a shelf-stable product

– introducing a new weaker formulation as the standard product, and using the old formula in a “uber” range extension and charge people more for it

– putting products into smaller packaging and charging you the same as the old (and bigger) size

– and one that is my absolute BUGBEAR – charging you import prices for import brand beer that is brewed locally or not from the original country (my favourite recently was “import” Saporro that was brewed in Canada

Stuff like that is the deception that shits me – where consumers are blatantly ripped off, or their health and safety is put at risk.

Now – putting a video up on youtube where the ultimate consumer response when they find out the truth is either “Wow, they got me there!” or “Assholes – they tricked me; I’ll never buy that!” to me is not something that as marketers we should be screaming loudly  about. 

We should be standing up for consumers, not our own little patch of self-interest on the right and wrong way to do things.

More on this later…promise

(and just as a disclaimer the company I work for is owned by the same people who own Naked. I’ve never cared much for Naked, but I think Adam Ferrier sums it up quite well here.)



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11 responses to “What the world needs now…

  1. I’m not so sure the SMH is livid, I think they knew all along that the campaign was a campaign. I think they did the original story just so they could expose it later on and therefore get more news.

    If not, their journos mustn’t do a skerrick of research as they just did a similar thing a few weeks ago, by publishing a story of a grassroots campaign, then exposing it the next day as having the AHA behind it.

  2. kelpenhagen

    You are probably right Cheryl – my next post was going to be about how things like this will have to make journos do more a little more research – but now as you say, they will just write about it gushingly, then expose it. Depressing!

  3. b-

    i think you mean exasperating? but yes.

  4. kelpenhagen

    I do – I was so exasperated while typing I let the spell check do all the work

  5. Hi Kelly, a thought provoking post as always.

    Clearly I’m not Australian and can’t comment on the exact ins and outs of the case you mention, so if I may I’d like to approach this from the angle of social media fakery in general.

    First of all, absolutely, no one has died here. We’re not heart surgeons who carry out some kind of vital service for society and all those things you mention are more important than this.

    Having said that, I think that campaigns where you put people up to act as Joe Public are bad practice for three reasons:

    1 – It’s lazy. Though I don’t know much about the Australian social media scene (I am guessing it is not much different than ours), I do know about Naked which is of course a global agency. And let me be clear, one that I think does some awesome work.

    But – from a creative point of view (and it’s my opinion, others will disagree), I don’t really see this kind of You Tube panto as being the height of creativity.

    2 – More to the point it’s ultimately counter productive. We can say that journalists should check, but in practice if you are reputable they will give you the benefit of the doubt, especially if its a soft story like this.

    However, once you’ve pulled the wool over their eyes once they won’t be so forgiving in future and will cast doubt over *everything* you do in future. It’s a loss of face for them and a loss of trust for you.

    The Belkin example of where they paid 65c for fake reviews on Amazon is a good, if extreme example.

    By doing this, Belkin has called into question every single Belkin user review, whether genuine or not.

    I simply don’t think that the loss of credibility is worth it.

    3 – Finally, as Cheryl rightly said on her blog, if brands and agencies get a reputation for being outed for this kind of stuff, it makes brands (even more) nervous of dipping their toes in the social media water again.

    Again, it’s a question of credibility, but this time for our sector.

    Finally, the example you mention concerns Australia, but I can assure you it’s something I’ve come across as well.

    Only yesterday a client was telling me that another agency had suggested that they hire actors to do some fake virals. People will never know, they told him.

    Actually they very well might and the result could be a lot of egg on the face. Is it really worth it? I think definitely not.

  6. mQuest

    Hi Kelly,

    as fellow commentor mentioned no one died here, BUT. in my humble 20+ years in new media (well it was called multi-media when I started in Hypercard) it seems to be the same issue – that being people seem to forget that, (a) humans are iinquisitive, (b) being smart on a computer isn’t that same as smart in the real world, (c) the truth will always come out. (d) and no matter how smart you think you are, their is always someone smarter than you who will discover your ruse.

  7. kelpenhagen

    hey Dirk – thanks for the reply. I certainly respect your views on this, and largely I do agree with you.

    It does feel like a kind of lazy campaign, but I think the point was it was supposed to be a story that you followed and then there was a reveal (possibly badly executed – yes). No one will really know what was going to happen next, because “Heidi” has made her confession…she is an actress.

    The whole thing came crumbling down when the press got interested, and Naked kept going with it – I think it made front page of a paper here (due to lazy journalism). The thing I sort of find funny was Naked ran with it, and further developed up the girls back story (including the name of one of her friends, naming the particular cafe it was supposed to have happened), and kept digging themselves deeper and deeper into shit. But maybe they felt it was too big an opportunity to pass up? Sydney Morning Herald, big weekend circulation etc etc.

    So the campaign was a little bit questionable, but the conversation that is going around it is VERY bitchy over here. The outrage that is being expressed by some commentators here is very OTT. There appears to be an expectation now that if someone is called on doing something deemed “wrong” in the SM space, then the perpetrator needs to go around cap in hand to the accusers, pleading for forgiveness. Adam Ferrier has certainly addressed all those who have complained loudly, but has not been so apologetic as they would like, which has in turn upset them more. There appears to be a huge amount of jealousy and back biting going on – between those who feel they are the “experts” and those who are getting the work.

    So whether the Naked work will be detrimental or not to the longer term launch of the brand is yet to be determined.

    My anger is that within marketing there is so, so much more to be angry about. Sure, these things may not be life and death, but there is so much trickery going on, the comms is actually one of the most truthful parts going on in biz sometimes. That if people are really “looking out for consumers” then also focus on the other stuff that happens as well. Because to me it looks like the only time they get up in arms about people having their trust abused is when something like this happens – and to me it’s starting to look like sour grapes.

    But you are 100% right – “Fake” virals are lazy, and the consequences may turn out to bite Naked on their bare arse (apparently it’s given them a lot of inquiries though…ha!). I think one of the guys behind this campaign used to own a clothing company that ran it’s business by doing lots of PR stunts – so maybe it was influenced by him as well.

  8. Yes I guess like in any communities there is a certain amount of one-up manship and calling out people as a way of proving you are the expert.

    Then people link to each other and you’ve got ‘ditto heads’ shouting in unison. Having been a victim of that myself back in August, I know 1st hand it’s not pleasant, though it did force me to learn a little bit about SEO as a result!

    So yes, that’s not great, and like I said I’ve got nothing against Naked – just the opposite.

    I do think however that whatever short term gains you get from this kind of activity (and absolutely I can well imagine a lot more people are talking about the clothing brand now) are easily wiped out in the long term.

  9. Kelly, I agree with you that marketers have long played dishonest games with products and claims etc. etc. but also suggest there is an important distinction between past fakery and this new modern deception:

    For the first time, marketers are being dishonest with the entire communication *platform* itself. And that makes bits like this Heidi-jacket promotion much worse than other past ad grievances.

    I’ve been writing recently about the new graying between advertising and editorial, and am disturbed, because it creates a new dissonance that makes it almost impossible for audiences to judge the value of a communication. At least if a product message is clearly marked as “advertising,” or a claim on a package, consumers can judge it for its merits.

    But creating false communications entirely that are ads disguised as news or personal videos and the like is an entirely new form of deception. It reminds me of Orwell’s 1984, where folks rewrote history to fit whatever history was meant to be … except now we’re playing games with messages in the present.

    This is the darkest form of untruth because no one has a chance to really judge the message intent. What looks like pure editorial (or honest opinion) is actually a paid advert. The platform itself has been switched, misleading the consumer not only by the message content but by the entire context itself.

    It’s as if a person showed up at your door, knocking frantically, saying there was a gas leak in the neighborhood, please evacuate … oh yes, sponsored by your local oil company whose product is not as explosive as natural gas. The message in that case would be fake, but the context of lies makes the situation much worse.

    Eventually this sort of rubbish must be banned because it will ruin itself as consumers begin to doubt everything. There’s a reason why ads are clearly marked as such; setting the context creates a fair playing field for consumers to judge, and for advertisers to provide a clear compelling message.

  10. Great post, you’re right, we need to move on and deal with real issues in the world… I hear people are dying of disease and famine somewhere???

    I think it’s a cyclical thing that Australia has created itself.

    This is how it plays out:
    1. Bad campaign created and excuted
    2. Positive publicity generated
    3. Campaign discovered to be untrue
    4. Social media community go on about it
    5. Social media community go on about it
    6. Another bad campaign is created….

    The problem is that the social media community is gas bagging about how bad it all is (and that includes me) as opposed to focusing on doing a campaign right, case studies, how can we learn…

    The amount of PR that gets created around how bad the campaign is just generates MORE publicity…

    And do consumers really care that Witchery tried something different?

    Well, yes, but they also know Witchery have mens jackets. They’d be much more concerned if they were hand made in China for $0.50 a unit.

    Lets focus on positive case studies and being real, and try to take some campaigns into action, instead of talking about it.

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