Tag Archives: Marketing and Advertising

There Oughta Be A Law

So here is something I bet you didn’t know. There is a law against airing false information on TV. OK, so it’s technically not a law – it’s an FCC rule – and it doesn’t apply to cable TV since that’s not an over the air medium like TV or radio. Those latter media are prohibited from broadcasting false information about a crime or a catastrophe if the broadcaster knows the information is false and will cause substantial “public harm” if aired. With respect to other news, The FCC is prohibited by law from engaging in censorship or infringing on First Amendment rights of the press. It is, however, illegal for broadcasters to intentionally distort the news, and the FCC may act
on complaints, if there is documented evidence of such behavior from persons with direct personal knowledge.

That’s one reason why you can generally trust things you hear and see on broadcast outlets rather than cable or streaming outlets. It also makes me wonder why the same sort of standard isn’t governing the plethora of made-up misinformation that surrounds us.  What got me thinking about this today is all of the reporting about Facebook’s failures when it comes to fighting misleading posts on their platform. They say it’s in the name of free speech. I think it’s in the name of commerce.

Several advertisers have suspended or ended their spending on Facebook and other social media over this issue as well as the proliferation of hate speech. Is it really a problem? Um, have you been on Facebook or Twitter? The latter at least is attempting to deal with the issue. Facebook isn’t, other than paying lip service to the idea of cleaning up their sewer. But as this article and this one point out, they’re failing because they really don’t seem to be trying.

Is it more than unsavory speech with which we’re dealing? Yes, it is. Say I spend a lot of money targeting voters who I think will vote against me with a very realistic looking ad saying that the election has been delayed a week due to the pandemic in an effort to suppress your vote? Maybe I pay to put up a number of posts saying that the police are strip-searching all voters when they enter the polls? If you’ve paid any attention at all to what happened in the last national election, you know that there were many groups, both American and foreign, who did things along those lines. I’m pretty sure that’s not the kind of free speech the founders had in mind.

So I think there ought to be a law very similar to the rules that broadcasters live by. Knowingly disseminating false information should be penalized, and repeat offenders should do more than pay fines. When I worked in TV, losing a license was always in the back of our minds. Maybe it’s time that we de-platformed the folks who are polluting the political and other discourses even if it means shutting down a huge business like Facebook. After all, in their day, TV stations were pretty big businesses too. What do you think?

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Filed under digital media, Reality checks

A Little More Privacy

Sometimes I feel that I use this space to relay only bad news. I rage about lousy customer service and vent about idiocy in marketing. Well, not today. Nope. I have some good news, at least from a consumer perspective. Frankly, from a marketer and application developer perspective, it sucks, but that’s life, I guess.

Apple released the details about the latest version of iOS yesterday. I’m not an Apple fanboy and I don’t own an iPhone. However, I think this announcement is a big step forward in many ways. You see, this new version of iOS will offer new privacy features, including one that could make it harder for ad-tech companies to track users.

When an app that’s installed on the phone wants to track them for ad purposes, the phone will let the user know and will ask people to either allow or prohibit tracking by that app. If you choose not to have an app track you, the system won’t let the app grab the identifier for advertising (IDFA) — an alphanumeric string that allows developers to track mobile users across different apps. My Android phone has something similar but it’s really a binary yes/no choice for all apps and not set at the app level. What Apple is doing is a step forward in improving our privacy.

Needless to say, the Network Advertising Initiative criticized Apple’s move. They say that it will make life harder for app developers since it will be harder to make money via ads. They say this could lead to developers having to charge for apps or for in-app content. I realize I might not be typical, but I do pay for apps that I find useful, especially if that removes the advertising. A few bucks a year for something I regularly use is, in my way of thinking, a fair exchange of value. Tracking me without my permission and selling the data is not.

Apple did something similar to this in their Safari browser a year ago. You would expect Apple to lead the change on privacy with respect to ads because unlike Google or Microsoft, their business isn’t based in the advertising world.  Their hardware isn’t a secondary line as it is with others. Is this going to have others doing the same? Maybe not, but since third-party cookies have disappeared and now tracking is more difficult on a significant portion of the installed mobile base, other changes in how privacy in the ad business works are sure to follow. Stay tuned!

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Filed under digital media, What's Going On

Egg Creams

Foodie Friday! Unless you grew up in the New York area, you probably have no idea what an egg cream is. I suspect you might even have to be of a certain age to know. No, it has nothing to do with those eggs Cadbury sells. It’s a beverage, one that was a real treat when I was a kid. Here’s the thing: it contains neither eggs nor cream.

An egg cream is basically a glass of chocolate milk with some carbonation added via seltzer. Of course, a REAL egg cream is made only with Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup, whole milk, and a good spritz out of a blue seltzer bottle to froth the whole thing properly. Good luck finding one of those bottles any more!

The egg cream actually has its own day – March 15. Its origins are shrouded in mystery and it seems as if every soda jerk in NYC had his or her own closely-guarded recipe (proportion is everything!). The most interesting thing about it to most people is that it’s not at all what one would think it is, which leads to our business point today.

One thing that’s essential to any successful business (or businessperson) is authenticity. Their purpose is clear, they operate under a set of values that everyone involved knows and adheres to, and they have a defined personality. You can call it a brand image but I think it goes deeper than that. Apple, Disney, and others are great examples of this. As Dennis Green famously said, “they are who we thought they were.” Unlike the egg cream, the image you have about them is probably spot on to reality.

None of us can afford to be egg creams. We need to be clear about our personal and business brands. We need to project an image that rings true. I hope that makes sense. Now if I could only find a way to get a full, traditional seltzer bottle here from NYC without spending $100!

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Filed under food, Reality checks