Nike made history recently by being the first organisation to have a Twitter campaign banned. The campaign in question encouraged celebrities to tweet about the brand, without making it clear that it was for advertising purposes. This is in breach of ASA’s Advertising Code which states that adverts should be obviously identifiable as such.
Nike, however, has still not withdrawn the content, and is disputing the ASA’s ruling. This is a pivotal moment for advertising on Twitter and the verdict will set the standards for advertisers using Twitter in the future.
Similar issues with using celebrity tweets as advertisements have occurred in the past, such as the Snickers campaign “You’re not you when you’re hungry” with celebrities like Rio Ferdinand tweeting about knitting or Katie Price talking about the economy. These were apparently deemed passable by the ASA due to the fact that they clearly stated that it was an ad by putting “@snickersUk #hungry #spon” on the end of the tweet.
This is certainly not the last we will hear about the Twitter / advertising debate. Twitter and other large social networks present substantial opportunities for brands to communicate with large audiences, especially via highly influential celebrities with massive fan bases. On this front, the ASA faces many problems, not least how it differentiates advertising from the actual views and opinions of the celebrities. And how can it keep track of all the tweets when there are 600 being posted every second?
Certain rules are already in place to try and appease this issue, e.g. putting #ad at the end of the post. The ASA also relies heavily on the power of the community, and it will respond to complaints about suspicious tweets that come from high authority Twitter users.
The debate over whether this form of advertising can be controlled is still being waged. But what is clear, is that we will see brands pushing the rules as far as they can as social media continues to grow.