How social media drives truth in advertising

September 19, 2012

A magazine ad for a popular parenting book promotes reader comments, warts and all — and suggests a new trend in advertising.

The ad below for the book Why Have Kids ran in a recent issue of The New Yorker. Like many book ads, it included some comments — in this case from both readers and industry insiders. But if you read the quotes, you might notice a little something strange: they are not all positive. A couple of them are actually downright negative. When was the last time you saw an ad for a product that gave voice to its own critics? If this is a first for you, I guarantee it will not be a last.

Everybody and their aunt are offering opinions on anything from barbeques to hotel rooms to socket wrenches. Shop for any product you can imagine — and for most you can easily find both a rave review and a downright bashing. Intuitively, you know that people jumping online to write about their new barbeque are coming from one extreme or the other, yet you read looking for those opinions that seem the most relevant or reasonable. This is the game we all play — and brand communications have tended to either stay out of the discussion or focus only on the most positive user feedback.

Ratings and user comments have long been a fact of life across a range of industries. And the “see what all the fuss is about” angle has certainly been employed as a marketing strategy around controversial media vehicles before. Yet actively promoting a range of reviews actually changes the experience that a marketer is promoting. Five years ago, ads for Why Have Kids would probably have lauded the writer for her take on this topic — and it would thereby invite readers with assenting opinions to buy the book. Today, this ad takes a more antagonistic tone, acknowledging the gray areas within the debate — promoting the subsequent dialogue the book may inspire more than it promotes the book itself.

Marketers may still not have the stomach to advertise their products or experiences alongside aggressively negative commentary. Hyperbole and promises of panaceas will certainly continue to be standard marketing fare. But in an age where consumers are demanding transparency — and where their social networks expand the power of word-of-mouth — smart brands will take a real-world view of the experience they are promising, setting appropriate expectations and building more honest connections with their customers.

(Click image below to read the quotes.)

{rokbox size=|600 600| text=|Why Have Kids|}images/stories/why_have_kids_quotes.jpg{/rokbox}

blog comments powered by Disqus
Brandlogic and CoreBrand have become Tenet Partners — Where brand meets innovation®. More