Tweeting Deceit From Sochi

16 Feb

selloutAin’t singin’ for Pepsi/ Ain’t singin’ for Coke/ I don’t sing for nobody/ Makes me look like a joke/ This note’s for you.
This Note’s For You – Neil Young.

Good luck finding integrity like that in Sochi, especially from figure skaters and American darlings Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner. As AP reported, these two (and who know how many others) have handed over to the keys to their Twitter accounts to sponsors.

goldThat means the allegedly spur-of-the-moment tweets you read, thinking you’re getting a personalized glimpse into these athletes’ experiences, could easily have been written by Smuckers, P&G, and Covergirl, among others. So when Gold tweets, “Did you know that I did gymnastics and swimming before I took up skating? #funtimes #smuckers #ad” It’s entirely possible that it was scripted by Smuckers—which wasted no time replying to that tweet and got massive exposure among her 65,200 followers.

Bug“This is the first Olympics where I actually have a social media calendar, where an athlete has to tweet or mention something on a given day,” Gold’s agent, Yuki Saegusa, told AP. “We get a list of tweets or social media things that need to be posted and then we approve them for her.”

Wagner’s agent, David Baden, told the wire service that her contracts stipulate “how many tweets, how many Facebook mentions, and even Instagram” photos they must post. He went on to say that letting the sponsors actually craft the posts was just a matter of convenience.

“It’s just that with her schedule, if we can make things easier, what’s the difference?”

The difference, Mr. Baden, is that you are lying to the very members of the public that are so critical to your client’s success. You are treating her adoring fans like cattle that should have no problem being force-fed whatever you and your clients can earn a dollar to shill.

Look, I get it. I work in advertising and we are constantly looking for new and efficient ways to connect our client’s message with the target audience. Social media matters now more than ever. And content is the currency of the social realm. But bullshit like this is a bad deal all the way around.

People turn to social media during huge events like the Olympics to connect in ways mainstream media can’t make possible. The fact that our favorite athletes, in the midst of the biggest event of their lives, take time to post on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram is a thrill to fans. It’s our chance to connect one-to-one. Corrupt social media and you kill the very platform you’re trying to harness.

pikusWe want to believe we’re seeing the real deal when Noel Pikus-Pace takes to Facebook hours after her silver medal skeleton run and says, “WE DID IT! Thank You all SO SO much! Hugs all around! WE DID IT!!!! WAHOOOOOOOOOOO!!!”

Her fans certainly believed it was sincere—they shared the image and their support more than 400 times.

Ironically, the Federal Trade Commission has rules about what sites like this have to disclose when accepting money for sponsored content.  Anything that’s an endorsement has to be labeled as such.

“An endorsement means any advertising message…that consumers are likely to believe reflects the opinions, beliefs, findings, or experiences of a party other than the sponsoring advertiser.” according to FTC rule 16 CFR Part 255. But, at present, those rules don’t apply to social media.

So AP asked Gold’s and Wagner’s agents which posts were crafted by sponsors. Neither agent would answer. Shame on them.

About Project TILWO — I watch Sochi 2014 Olympic coverage on TV and online then share the lessons I learn, with occasional help from my friends. Edited by Lynn Hess @ Premier Proofing.