How to avoid a red card for your Twitter campaign
The advertising watchdog decided that Nike’s use of the personal accounts of footballers Wayne Rooney and Jack Wilshere broke rules for not clearly telling the public their tweets were ads.
Both footballers posted tweets promoting Nike’s ‘Make it Count’ campaign that had clearly been created and agreed in collaboration with the Nike marketing team, included the slogan Make It Count and a web link to a promotional video:
“My resolution — to start the year as a champion, and finish it as a champion…#makeitcount gonike.me/makeitcount” – Wayne Rooney
“In 2012, I will come back for my club — and be ready for my country. #makeitcount gonike.me/Makeitcount” – Jack Wilshere
Nike argued that both players were famously sponsored by the brand and with the clear links to the campaign it was obvious that the tweets were promotional.
However, the Advertising Standards Authority specifies that if people are being paid to promote a product or company on Twitter then they must make it clear to their audience that they are employed by that company and specifically the marketing code states that ads must be “obviously identifiable”.
So how can brands get around this? Clearly celebrities are a valuable asset to brands with their huge follower numbers and level of influence on the customers that companies are trying to reach. But consumers are savvy – they don’t want to follow an ad stream even if it is from their favourite star. Brands must stick to the rules without turning off customers.
On Twitter you only have 140 characters to play with which can be challenging enough without giving up space to declare the ins and outs of a sponsorship deal.
The most transparent way of getting around this is to use the standard disclaimer sign offs at the end of a marketing tweets, for example #spons, (spons) (dis:spons). But this can affect the quality of your tweet and message.
A brand that recently very finely dodged a ban from ASA was Mars with their “You’re not you when you’re hungry” campaign for Snickers. This campaign was designed to mislead – the public were left guessing when well-known celebrities including Katie Price and Rio Ferdinand posted unexpected tweets.
Yet the advertising watchdog considered that they had not been misleading in terms of letting the public know that this had been an advertising campaign. The key differences between this campaign and Nike’s are that the initial tweets made no reference to any campaign or product and therefore were not advertising and the tweet that revealed the joke included #spons. This meant Mars had already created the impact before they used a potentially off putting disclaimer.
It is down to the brand employing a celebrity to make sure that the language used in a tweet remains genuine without them breaking the rules. So Wayne Rooney could have introduced his tweet in a more informal way that let people know it was promotional, for example:
“When they’re not supplying me with my awesome trainers Nike have asked me what I’ll do to #makeitcount…” or
“As they keep me in the best boots in the business all year Nike have asked me what my resolutions for 2012 are…”
Don’t forget – it’s not just celebrities that are at risk of breaking the rules. Agencies that talk about clients without acknowledging the relationship are advertising without declaring a financial involvement. This includes staff that work for the agency as well as any official accounts.
The quickest way of letting people know that you are connected to the product that you are discussing is to add (disc:client) at the end of your tweets. But if you feel this will be a one way track to losing your friends outside of the industry in droves then it is better to just tell people so that you stick to the rules but in a more friendly manner e.g. “Check out what my client has done”, “My client has just launched…” etc. And it’s not just Twitter – the same rules apply to Facebook.
Nike won’t be the last company that Twitter lands in hot water with the ASA – just make sure it’s not you!
Nicola Peate, social media manager, Rippleffect