Skimming through The Guardian (a UK newspaper for those non UK residents reading this) online tonight, I couldn’t fail to notice that there seems to be a growing amount of heat both official and otherwise for celebrities who are being paid to push products, ie sponsored Tweets (see Twitter endorsements face OFT clampdown http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/jan/09/oft-clampdown-covert-twitter-endorsements) .
There are a few issues here, connected of course, but as usual associated with freedom and choice.
Firstly, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has a point, sort of. They maintain that PR company Handpicked Media who run a commercial blogging network, must state when promotional comments have been paid for. I get that, again sort of. But surely this approach does not credit the readers or followers any intelligence? I may only speak for myself, but one of the many really amazing things about the internet is that it kind of works things out, wisdom of the crowds or otherwise. Over in old fashioned TV ad land, or even older fashioned print ad ville, do we really need to know that the celebrities, famous people, recognised people, personal brand pushers or whatever we call them, are paid for endorsing and pushing products? Of course they are, it is a given. Surely the same is true now that the Ad and PR people have taken their place within Twitter and Facebook and for that matter Amazon? I mean hearing a celeb Tweeting endlessly about a product, in a series of 140 character tomes, is both transparent and ultimately boring, unless it is genuine. The power is with all of us, not some of them, and by them I mean I mean the marketeers and their mules.
Secondly, the OFT are only following what their American cousins at the US Federal Trade Commission (USFTC) insist on. The USFTC want transparency in this area and insist on such Tweets carrying ‘ad’ or ‘spon’. I have no idea how this is or will be policed, I am sure it will be a mix of a tech solution and some ordinary people doing some ad hoc, sorry intelligence led, snooping. Anyway, who cares as long as it does not effect out freedoms and ability to chose. Censorship should always be questioned, especially on the internet.
According to The Guardian article, “Celebrities can be great influencers, whether they’re on TV or tweeting,” Arnie Gullov-Singh, chief executive officer of Ad.ly, which pairs celebrities and companies, told Business Week in a recent interview. Reality TV star Kim Kardashian, who has more than 5.6 million followers, can collect up to $10,000 for tweeting, Gullov-Singh added. “Her price keeps going up. The most effective ones can get six figures a year, and in some cases six figures a quarter.”
Launched in 2009, Ad.ly uses more than 5,000 celebrities and experts to promote products such as Coke, Toyota and Microsoft in the US. It now plans to launch the service in Britain.“A year ago, celebrities were wary about their reputation, about selling out, but when they saw how easy it was to earn up to $5,000 a tweet, they flocked on board,” said Gullov-Singh.
Thus finally, it should not really be a surprise to read Mr Gullov-Singh’s comment about some celebrities, after all fear and greed are all part of the human condition and let’s face it how many of us would refuse to take a fee to endorse something? Even if we were taking the moral high ground and wanted to preserve a reputation (darling) and push a product or service that we may even use, love and could not bear to be without? Tough call, moral dilemma ahead! Therefore we should all be free to make our own decisions. If we are lucky enough to be offered money for Tweets, then we should weigh up the deal and decide for ourselves. If we value our judgement and reputation, we should tell the truth, however hard that can be sometimes, especially when filthy lucre is around. Equally, if we want to follow what celebrities tell us, that should also be our choice and one that should not leave us as individuals open to mockery. Ultimately crap products or services will get found out and the internet will spread that news quicker than a paid for Tweet or Facebook post.
The internet gave us many things, but for me, it gave freedom of choice.