It seems that almost daily there is more concern around the total dominance of the major social media platforms as they race to scoop up ever-larger portions of the world’s advertising budgets (would 100% be enough?). Of the plethora of negative stories around social media, three in the past week or so have caught Thailand Tatler’s eye.
The first was a survey of 5,000 school children in the UK commissioned by Digital Awareness UK and the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), which represents head teachers of independent schools around the world, looking at the impact of social media.
The Press Association reported that the survey showed 63% of those questioned would not care if social media did not exist and 71% had said they had taken temporary social media detoxes to escape the daily bombardment. While 56% said they were on the edge of addiction, 52% said that social media made them less confident about themselves and their lives.
Although 85% of pupils said they did not engage in portraying a fake version of themselves, more than 60% said they believed friends portrayed themselves in a fake manner. When asked to suggest ways to improve social media 71% wanted less advertising, 61% wanted to cut fake news and 49% wanted greater privacy.
What is most striking about this survey is that most of the respondents were in years nine, 10 and 11—in other words, the generation that will soon replace millennials as the most desired audience for luxury advertisers.
The second eye-catcher was a story that appeared in NBC News that was headlined Advertisers Getting Nervous About Their Marriage to Google, Facebook. The gist of the piece was that advertisers are getting seriously worried that their content is appearing alongside damaging content and they have doubts about the credibility of some of the claimed audience reach. As Russian hackers have used Facebook advertising to influence the outcome of the latest American presidential election, Google has been placing ads next to wacky conspiracy theories shown on its YouTube platform. Both Google and Facebook are doing their best to counteract this negative flow with Google saying in August that it would refund advertisers for ads placed on dodgy websites with fraudulent traffic counts, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
The third talking point followed a problem that the beauty brand Dove got into this month when it tried to force a “clever” ad message into a three-second Facebook commercial. Putting aside the complete inadvisability of showing a black model seemingly transforming into a white model as she removes her top, the fact that advertisers think they have only three seconds to get their message across is perhaps the most telling.
Not too long ago, we attended a social media forum in Bangkok during which Facebook’s Asia chief predicted that the next big trend was seven-second commercials. Well now that forecast seems down to three-second ads, which is perhaps the maximum time that the emerging new social media consumer can stomach as an intrusion into their mobile device viewing.
We have all seen those ads on YouTube that give you five or so seconds before you can skip and we are guessing that everyone is just like us in waiting to hit that skip button as fast as we can.
So what does this add up to for luxury advertisers? Put at its starkest, social media advertising is fine if you can create non-controversial three-second ads that brilliantly put across the brand values you have spent billions creating over decades. And it is fine if you don’t mind those ads occasionally appearing next to fake news or hate content and you are not too concerned about the veracity of the audience size and demographic.
There are many other stories in the advertising and marketing trade media that voice the concerns of major advertisers and indeed the major platforms are working hard to address these serious issues. They will need to find a solution fast as those ninth, tenth and eleventh graders will soon be the target of the major brands’ ad dollars. If Facebook, Google and others don’t address their concerns then the massive disruption to the world of advertising is far from over and new and better ways of presenting quality advertising messages, within a compatible content environment and to clearly defined and measurable target audiences will soon start to emerge or—dare we say it—even re-emerge.
(If you liked this Thailand Tatler piece, read this: Opinion: Stars Don’t Come Cheap!)