Saturday 11 April 2009

Telegrams to the future and selling your soul: two extremes

ReadWriteWeb have done a bit of digging into the Magpie ad service on Twitter. If you haven't come across this before, it is basically a service that pays normal Twitter users to tweet on behalf of brands (usually for discounts, offers or special deals). Because the links are hidden behind a link shortener, like all links on Twitter (unless you make the very easy and free upgrade to PowerTwitter), you can't see where the link is directing you: ie the Magpie redirect gets very well hidden. The brands that are using the service, and attracting the fury of RWW, include Apple, Skype and Flip (well realistically its probably affiliates that get paid to shift coupons, but it is still on behalf of the brand).

Personally it doesn't bother me that people will take a few £$ to pass
corporate messages on using Twitter, as long as they come with the #Magpie tag that the service recommends (I am pleased that I don't know if they tend to or not as i haven't come across them outside of tech blogs though). Where it starts to get a bit suspicious is if they aren't clearly marked: of the list in the RWW article only two of the Apple examples use the tag. Aside from the dubious ethics of taking cash to persuade your friends of something that you don't believe, this is also a pretty shaky legal position. Or at least it is in the UK, where it is illegal to post positive feedback on behalf of a brand that you are working for without full disclosure of the fact that cash is involved (whether as a one off payment or an agency relationship). (I'm sure it is elsewhere as well, it's just that I know the UK ethics and laws better). Which makes the international nature of brands and the internet, not to mention people's Twitter networks, a bit of a moot point. This is clearly advertising, and if people using the service are 'conveniently forgetting' to add the tag, then surely the responsibility lies with Magpie to comply with the laws of ALL the countries its messages are being viewed in?
In happier news, the Imperial War Museum in London has taken a novel approach to the recession by marketing money saving tips from World War 2. They are set up as telegrams to the future from a character called Mrs Sew&Sew, the Ministry of Information's voice of 'Make Do & Mend' in the 1940s, published onto a blog and a Twitter feed. While the recession tips give a very 2009 saliency to the War Museum, I love the incongruity of this very 40s voice appearing on Blogger and Twitter, alongside tip sheets like this one
While I can't see a huge amount of spreadability in this idea, it has taken an objective [sell War Museum tickets] and a strategy [bring to life the similarities between the Home Front and a Recession] and set about achieving them with warrmth and intelligence. Which makes it a refreshing change to the duplicitous stuff that Apple and Skype are involving themselves in
(HT to Brand Republic for the War Museum link)


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