Viral jacket fake stripped Naked

Well, as they should be, Seven’s Sunrise team seemed annoyed at being duped by Naked and their fake Cinderella jacket girl viral video that they ran as a news story on Monday morning. Sunrise had Tim Burrowes on this morning explaining why it really wasn’t a very smart way to promote a brand. Naked came out defending themselves yesterday against claims their faked video for clothing brand Witchery was deceptive. Adam Ferrier, Naked’s planning partner claimed, “The word deception implies an element of harm. This campaign hasn’t harmed anyone, not even close”.

Well, creating false news that is circulated virally or otherwise,  especially with the intention of having it end up on prime-time media, and then denying  involvement seems like deception to me. It also paints our profession in a bad light.

An interesting discussion took place on Adam Ferrier’s own blog between Ferrier and Stephen Collins of Acidlabs, where Ferrier has tried to justify Naked’s actions. He asks, “Who in social media understands consumer behaviour”, and goes on to say,

“I think people with a history in social media who want careers in marketing and communications should get educated in the broader aspects of human behaviour and marketing. Please. Some of the comments people are making in this space are at best naive.”

Consumer behaviour is not the nub of the issue for most commentators. The discussion has not been about whether people will fall for false information and buy products. The concerns are focused on the falsification of the information in the first place. Is this what Ferrier means when he councils people to get “get educated in the broader aspects of … marketing”. Is he suggesting that as marketers we have become delinquent deceivers, and that people don’t care anymore – that they like it?

Does the marketing machine feel justified pumping out anything to the public under the guise of “tease and reveal communications” as Ferrier called it in B&T, or “light entertainment”, a phrase Warren Brown from BMF used when asked to comment yesterday?  Brown did go on to say that, “if you deliberately deceive the public, it’ll only bite you in the bum“. And there’s the rub, the ROO. Ultimately, Naked feel they will be judged by how many people buy Witchery Man jackets, or say they know about Witchery selling men’s clothes. However, as I said in my last post on this subject, creating a fantasy or fiction that viewers happily buy into is one thing, but misleading them is quite another. The slap-back from any loss of trust is reduced sales and diminished brand value. Check out the mixed (mainly negative) feedback from the market at the end of this news.com.au piece. What’s the multiple on negative/positive comments when evaluating social media campaigns?

The late, great David Ogilvy once said, “The customer is not a moron. She is your wife”. Regardless of who the customer is nowadays, when they watch the news they don’t want to be fooled by a deceptive ad for a jacket.

The jacket team came clean yesterday publishing another YouTube video exposing the truth as news of the fakery quickly broke across the web before they had a chance to continue the series with a rumoured follow-up from the “man in the jacket” himself.

For a more complete run-down of the www’s reaction to the event see mUmBRELLA’s coverage here.

New Year brings social media hoaxes

Happy New Year and welcome back to BDM for 2009. The advertising world has certainly hit the social media space in Australia with a quick one-two  that has everyone talking about how faking it can damage your brand, and can certainly damage the reputation of social media as a channel for those only mildly acquainted with it.

Tourism Queensland had one of their agency people pretend to get a tattoo and do a YouTube video, pitching to be a young hopeful competing for the ‘job of a lifetime’, while Naked hired an actor (now come on guys wasn’t that obvious) to pretend to be an inverse Cinderella looking for the owner of a lost jacket.

Claims by Tourism Queensland that the whole scam was about demonstrating ideas for the type of entries they wanted is a poor excuse for deception and I’m sure the team is now thinking the midnight six-hat session might have gone a bit too far. Best left on the white board, really. For an excellent backgrounder on tattooed Tourism and bitter fallout have a look at Tim Burrowes stories at mUmBRELLA here and here.

As for Naked and The Jacket Fiasco, I sat down to my cereal in front of Sunrise (OK, so there’s an admission) on Monday morning to see the YouTube video complete with comments by Mel and her gang about how it seemed like a set up. Was getting it onto Sunrise and making us watch it the set up? Were the Sunrise team saying it was a set up so they didn’t look stupid when it all came out that it was a set up? As they say in the classics, advertising a bad idea will just make everyone know about it faster. Put on some sunglasses before you hit play…

Perhaps the Naked strategy team could have called on the expertise of Julian Cole from sister agency, The Population, who has repeatedly warned against faking social media messages and advises full disclosure. Last time I looked, Naked’s CEO Matt Baxter was a non-executive director of The Population. Creating a fictional space and story which the viewer enjoys and the agency can extend the brand into is often dangerously close to just faking information that irritates your customers – that’s why there is a new skill set developing around social media marketing.

On that note, congratulations to social media consultant Stephen Collins of Acid Labs for his blog rocketing to No. 4 on the Top 129 Marketing Blogs. Servant of Chaos stays at No. 2 and Adspace-Pioneers, custodian of the list, has moved to No. 7. Beyond Digital Media has moved up a few spots to No. 68. Top of the list is creative site Bannerblog.

What else does 2009 have in store for us? As marketing budgets contract and social media starts to look like a cheap alternative to traditional advertising, exponents need to remember mistakes have already been made in this field – plenty. Lots of lessons have already been learnt.

[Update on post]