Digital Disclosure: Factoring the Law into your Branding Strategy

On the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) website, it says “Protecting American Consumers.” This agency was created over a century ago to fostering competitive prices for high-quality goods or services. It may be fair to say that many marketing professional are mainly focused on company/client-centered goals, sometimes without clearing certain tactics with their company’s legal department. Thus in the digital age, sponsored mobile posts have become a lucrative business up until recently with little involvement from the FTC.

Unintentionally, the following examples references the Kardashian-Jennifer clan for sponsored posts. You can’t knock the amazing hustle and bustle from this family!

On one particular episode of her reality show, “Keeping up with the Kardashians”, Kris Jenner asked her daughters Kim and Khloe to not only do another post on Hairfinity, but fly out to London for a premiere. This made me pause because the middle Kardashian sister spoke to Adweek in 2015 stating her Instagram account was “promo-free” telling the magazine, “I know a lot of my brands might get frustrated that I don’t promote maybe as much as they would like, but I only do it if it’s authentic.”

What does this mean? If celebrities are already the “face” of a brand, should they have to disclose each post with a #spon or #ad tag?

Recently Kim’s sister, Kourtney, has promoted her Instagram with Fit Tea posts.  Many celebrities and influencers have done posts for the Fit Tea brand.  This brand may not feature Kourtney as their “face” but Kourtney made sure this post was clearly stated it was a paid post.  Many other influencers probably are now probably becoming  more familiar with guidelines to sponsored posts. Kylie Jennifer, sister of Kourtney and Kim, also posted about Fit Tea back in April, without tagging it as an ad while Kourtney’s recent July post about the brand included the ad tag.

Kourtney’s Kardashian famous ex-boyfriend/father to her three children, Scott Disick was in the news earlier this year for reportedly copying and pasting an entire email from a sponsor, Boo Tea UK, on exactly what to say in his Instagram post, without deleting the directions on what to post from the sponsor:

Scott Disick gaff
Image courtesy of Instagram via Buzzfeed

In the digital world, this is a BIG deal as it shows the secret exchanges behind this promotional posts.  It would appear that celebrities don’t have to do anything but simply post to social media.  It would appear there is no requirement of some influencers to even be a user of the brand.  Would this change the view of the people they are trying to “influence”?

Going back Kim’s Adweek interview, it seems now as if Kim is more actively involved with her posts to be more organic to her audience compared to Disicks’s disregarded fluke of a post on how to type a genuine Instagram promotion to his following.  Disicks’s mishap is also not a good look on Boo Tea UK’s part either.  It shows little regard from the brand about having the influencer being true advocates for their product, they are only a means of advertisement.   There is also little regard from the influencer on if they make a mistake as they’re rich they can make mistakes and “hope” no one remembers them.  Not anymore as only one simple internet search can reveal a life’s timeline.

Influencers receive so many views a day that they can leverage their profiles, or ad space with “product placements” a.k.a sponsored ads. Them doing so requires the influencer to notify their following visibility in doing so unlike actual product placements where there is a process to get a product featured on a television show or movie. This also leverages competition and informs the viewers that while influencers may post about certain brands, they are paid to do so that the public can use their judgment whether or not to purchase the product. Seems pretty fair in case an audit is done on both the brand and the influencer.

As always with changing times comes changing/new laws however we follow people based on how we like them/their content they publish for the world to see. Do you think sponsored ads would change how you’re influenced by your favorite celebrities? What could sponsored ads say about an influencer’s brand?

Here is a little digital disclosure for all of my readers: Today marks 6 months since I’ve given birth! It has truly been an amazing experience thus far, watching my baby girl grow every single day. Mommy loves you Courtney!

Super Bowl Commercials: The Hype before Kickoff

Every year a wonderful event occurs in sports. The  Super Bowl is broadcasted to millions of viewers. However a growing number of viewers, each year, look forward to the commercials instead of the actual game.

Commercials?!

Yes that’s right, each year more viewers of the Super Bowl can’t wait to see the brand new commercials from multiple brands and companies. Each year you can expect to see ads from companies such as Pepsi, Doritos, a car brand like Mercedes, and Budweiser.  In more recent years however, companies will release the commercial days before the big premiere.  For brands is it really the best thing to do?

If a Super Bowl commercial is aired prior to the big game, say on another outlet such as YouTube, then you will definitely get some excitement and have people talking before the game. This can be great but it’s no longer the bright and shiny toy anymore when its watched again during the Super Bowl. Other commercials who weren’t pre-released will be the talk of the game.

Or brands can decide to take a completely different spin on a pre-release, like GoDaddy.com did prior to Super Bowl 2015.

courtesy of cloudproxy.sucuri.net

GoDaddy.com released their Super Bowl commercial early titled “Journey Home” featuring a cute puppy named Buddy. Buddy was lost but eventually found his way home, only then to be sold via the owner’s online site built from GoDaddy.com.  The ad was intended to poke fun at Budweiser’s Super Bowl 2014 ad.  In the end it showed insensitivity and inhumane practices.

Clearly the brand’s intended purpose for advertising “Journey Home” was to make people laugh or poke fun at others.  If you remember previous Super Bowl ads, the GoDaddy.com is notorious for featuring racy, sometimes dingy women with usually the commercials ending in a call-to-action for viewers to visit their website to see “what happens next.”

Thousands were outraged, so much so that they started an online petition to have the commercial pulled from airing during the Super Bowl.  GoDaddy.com decided to pull the ad on its own and mentioned viewers will still see GoDaddy.com during the Super Bowl however I’m quite sure they’re happy that they’re getting more hits to their website.

Cassandra’s perspective:  Brands pre-releasing their Super Bowl ads before the big game can sometimes be huge spoiler. Unless you want to stir up a big controversy, or marketing ploy like GoDaddy.com (but I have a feeling they won’t be in the trenches for long), why not experience the excitement of the game and the new commercials all at once?  I like tweeting about the commercials after each one airs so that I can see what others think as well.  Live in the moment!

Crisis Management: NFL

The National Football League is clearly in the public eye regarding all of the domestic violence scandals brought on by such players as Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, and Greg Hardy. It has been harsh criticism towards how NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, handled the Ray Rice’s disciplinary action. There is even more pressure on what the “standard” disciplinary action should be within the NFL for players who are irrefutably responsible domestic violence situations.  Accountability throughout the NFL was dropped over these scandals.

Photo Credit: Fortune.com  http://fortune.com/2014/09/20/ray-rice-adrian-peterson-tiger-woods-athletes-dropped-endorsements/
Photo Credit: Fortune.com http://fortune.com/2014/09/20/ray-rice-adrian-peterson-tiger-woods-athletes-dropped-endorsements/

The NFL has yet to lose any sponsors over this yet however they are requests from media buyers asking to shift their ads during Viking and Ravens games.  Players have personally lost endorsement deals including Rice’s endorsement with Nike.

Here are 6 leadership lessons, originally provided by Clinton Colmenares and paraphrased by me, for any organization to reference when they’re in a sticky situation:

  1. PR is strategic.  It should not be used to “spin” stories, especially in favor of the ones at fault.
  2. Find out ALL the facts.  In the Rice incident, it was the implication that the NFL had no knowledge of the video of Rice in an elevator showing physically attacking his then fiancée although the Associated Press says differently.  Plausible deniability is not an effective tactic in public relations as everything, especially in a huge viral scandal, will come to light.
  3. Be honest with stakeholders.  The initial punishment for Rice was a two-game suspension.  The NFL probably didn’t think the video would go viral months after initial punishment was implemented.  Now Rice is suspended indefinitely, thus showing the NFL was not serious about punishing its’ players.  The league also mentioned that they would conduct an “independent investigation.” Reporters easily noted that the investigator had NFL ties and would answer to NFL owners.
  4. Think long-term.  The Rice incident happened back in February but it went viral in September with the release of the video.  In this case “no news is good news” did not work in the NFL’s favor.
  5. Get ahead of bad news.  The NFL should have used this tip back in February.  If the public knew that action is being taken, people are more forgiving.  If you have to explain, you’re losing wrong and you’ve lost  control over the situation
  6. Rely on values.  Continuing to allow bad decisions based on poor judgement and weak values to be made can be the decline of an organization.  It can become a societal issue.  Controversies, particularly within the NFL (domestic violence, concussions, player violence, substance abuse) can and have created mistrust, inefficiencies, and chaos before the situations became public.

When the NFL still had control over the situation, they should have:

  • Found out the facts
  • Got everyone to sign non-disclosure agreements that had access to the video
  • Held a press conference about Rice’s suspension only disclosing what’s necessary, noting that he will be receiving the help that he needs.

What else can you think of that an organization can keep in mind for a crisis?