Advertising standards have worried me deeply since I began working in internet marketing. I’m still rather green when it comes to the industry at large, but its not as if I was ever totally ignorant to the manipulation inherent to the many practices already in place when I joined the fray. Technology and intuition well outpace the current efforts to regulate bad behavior, privacy and general decency.
I was very fortunate to start my career as a Training Specialist at an equitable firm, placing me in a somewhat central position to see the company workflow between sales, implementation, QA, and technical support. I got an unbiased view of how our clients would use our platform to run their campaigns, and the (sometimes) very minute difference between what I saw to be ethical and unethical about their practices.
I’ll preface the rest of this post by saying that I don’t believe there is any amount of profit or user apathy that makes certain ad practices justifiable. Native advertising is dishonest, adware is cruel, and affiliate marketing often walks a narrow line between deceit and beneficial user participation. However, I want to focus for a moment on a practice that I find particularly exploitative and void of honest investment: Companies using the private social media accounts of their salespeople as billboards for their products.
It seems like every day I see a friend posting before and after pictures of themselves using a Rodan + Fields product. Alongside these photos are obvious cut and paste testimonials trying to get their friends to hop on board. After several posts, they’re signing up other friends to sell the product, and like a virus, it spreads throughout every news feed I visit.
Now, I’m not questioning the efficacy of these products or the fact that these people are benefiting financially from their participation as a salesperson/publisher for the company. What IS deeply concerning is that the company shows no significant interest in the investment in launching honest campaigns. This is a risk-free venture for them, placing any potential fall out on the people who seem to genuinely believe in their product.
What’s more is that the people signing up seem to be very self-assured that this will never harm their personal lives in regards to privacy, social life, or actual career. Rodan + Fields seems to purposefully hunt those unfamiliar with internet ad sales, publishing and marketing in general.
So to those many people I know who have decided to peddle their wares on social media: Your product might be great and if you truly believe in it, then the company you represent should NEVER have to risk your privately established social media account to expand their already enormous brand. Surely you felt a little trepidation about the first time you went out of your way to act as a billboard for the profit of a company that should be spending their money to advertise in an ethical way.
Using the trust of your friends and family as leverage to sell your brand is not just dishonest, it is despicable. You can always build another account with the obvious intention of selling, and people can opt in or out.
Make conscientious decisions to improve your industry. The money you make today is not worth any regret you might have tomorrow. The ad industry has given genuinely useful services to people all over the world for 30 seconds of your time here and there. To practice without honest intent not only hurts your visitors, but it hurts everyone else trying to make a decent living serving your industry.