Mad about the #AD
Whoever you are on the t’Internet (@wanktank or @princesskindheartunicorn), you see a flicker of #AD or #SPON on Instagram from one of your stalwarts and think, here we go, they’ve sold out. Now it’s going to be a slew of protein powder shizzle and flogging sausages – and while I love a pork stuff, I’m outta here.
Often it’s not even a case of unfollowing, there’s been increasing furore surrounding the person who has ‘slyly’ whacked a ‘#AD’ in there. Understandably that influencer/ pusher of the pixels built a community on organic content that didn’t have them slipping a sausage into their posts willy nilly.
But there’s been change afoot these last few years. The reality is people, not celebrities are better placed to flog the goods. It’s basic consumer behaviour: I see Cara Delevingne trotting around in a velveteen catsuit and admire, while quietly weeping into my soggy Weetabix with milk that might – or might-not – be slightly off. Dairy roulette we call it in our abode.
Then I clap eyes on Zoe from Dress Like a Mum (@dresslikeamum) who has every bit as much pizzazz as the Delevingne (without the lesbian flings) and she speaks to me about whacking a boob out to breastfeed and the dungarees that allow that life-giving easy-access.
That’s my girl. (For the velveteen catsuit, I’d go to Natalie from Style Me Sunday.)
Keeping four daughters fed/watered/alive, writing a book (How to Grow a Baby and push it out) and being a fanny-tastic midwife, there’s Clemmie and her husband Simon (@mother_of_daughters MOD, @father_of_daughters FOD) who make me snort tea-through-nose laughing, regardless of whether it’s a sponsored post or not.
I’d far rather see FOD in his dressing gown, slipperless and loitering outside a bin for Fat Face than Jennifer Aniston wafting her locks on the tele for L’Oreal because she’s worth it. I’m wondering where his slippers are, I’m willing a slipper company to invest in his trotters.
Love the Aniston but her barnet seems to be My Little Pony glossy regardless of the jazzy product.
And then on my side of the fence, I’ve flogged/vlogged the shit out stuff, including the humble bog roll. I was asked if I felt I’d sold out? No, not at all, I’ve got 33 years of experience on the crapper and I’m gonna use it to pay the mortgage. My hashtag is ‘parenting the shit out of life’ – what could be more befitting than wiping arse for comedic effect? It was my most-watched vlog to date and one of the reasons there was limited backlash (or splash) was because I’d previously penned a story entitled ‘bog standards’ and why that 4-ply soft-to-the-wipe message is, perhaps, better placed using an everyday human over a cartoon koala.
(I won’t lie, asking the marketing manager if ‘I need to back onto the pan’ was a small low.)
But this shift that is happening is down to the media landscape crumbling and gradually being Sellotaped back together in the last two years. We’ve lost The Independent print edition, InStyle, FHM, Zoo, Loaded, All You Magazine, Company, Bliss, Motor Boats Monthly… the publishing graveyard is littered with titles that once prospered and now limp on until being cruelly banished.
My own work as a journalist has dried up and I’m now swimming upstream with the gusto of Nemo to keep pulling in the dime as a blogging, vlogging, all-singing, all-dancing pixel-pusher. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…
And don’t get me wrong, I love a mag rag as much as the next person, but these closures are the very reason floods of budget are coming to The Real People on the Internet. (I say real; I think we all know that Instagram is an occasional curated wonderland of filtered unicorn reality).
But you shell out hard dollar for magazines. There’s a clear contract right there as you reach for Take a Break to check out H from Steps’ hopeful return to the limelight. And there’s ads; stacks of them. I get digit strain just flicking through Vogue to get to the actual editor’s letter (often lurking around page 46).
This is no magazine-bashing exercise – long may those ads reign. But the process is: pay dollar for content, flick through ads and read content that tickles your fancy. There’s no furore around the process because it’s all above board and clear for the eye to see.
And there’s the issue. That transition from magazine ads to ‘influencer’ ads has been grey, murky and seemingly underhand. If I’m going to invest in a sausage, I want to know it’s not because Wall’s has told me it will sate my porky cravings. As a consumer, I need to know whether it’s Wall’s or @loveagoodsausage’s choice of banger.
(Sometimes it can be both – but the flogger needs to have set the scene before the ad, otherwise it just doesn’t cut the mustard.)
A recent study by the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) found that just 37% of PR and marketing professionals fully adhere to their overall guidelines, which advise on how to advertise and promote products to consumers.
“Whether it’s a vlog, blog or Instagram post, it needs to be clearly signposted,” explains Sarah Mawson, head of celebrity at Celebrity Intelligence. “Consumers are generally understanding of these types of posts – they know bloggers are just doing their job and it builds trust as they know exactly what’s going on.”
And that’s the crux here. Bloggers aren’t just wafting about with fizz in their hands, casually posing/posting here and there and cashing that puppy in. Running a blog is on par with running a magazine but without the bums on seats. You are word monkey, pic researcher, tea maker, ‘Bob in IT’ and occasionally a quiet crier when someone feels the need to tell you you look like a jacket potato.
Building a career on the Internet is not for the faint hearted. A magazine writer can edge behind the editor when the shit hits the fan, an influencer has to face the music – often very personal music about their kid’s ‘rubbish hair’ or like @samfaires (after posting a pic of her breastfeeding): “That’s one baby’s lips away from wankable”.
And while some Instagrammer’s following is higher than all the Vogue’s combined, their readers don’t pay a dime. It doesn’t even cost to download the app.
So what’s a little ad among friends? What’s a quick scroll, instead of a quick troll? We just need PRs and marketing maestros to help everyone see the branded wheat from the organic chaff.
Because the truth is, noone wants a rogue sausage sneakily slipped down their throat.
Image: Miles Aldridge
Written by: Anna Whitehouse.