Marketers are no longer buying digital ads on the off chance they'll be seen by anyone. They're buying ads on the off chance they might be seen by someone famous.
The rise of niche-targeted audiences and endless social feeds have enabled Instagram influencers and other popular personalities to make hundreds of thousands of dollars a month as brands huddle to promote their products. But they're learning soon enough that everything can go south in a hurry.
The most explosive example took place in November. When Apple released a new iPad Pro, a celebrity influencer named Egor Kulichak created a fake campaign called the "Official Black Formation ," pitching an advertisement for his students' art space. Meanwhile, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom tried to pitch the tech giant on a photo-sharing app of his own. That's when the scam went viral.
Kulichak would have earned as much as $300,000 had his fake campaign been allowed to stand, a Silicon Valley Bay Area-based tech site called ExtremeTech reported. (The same site ran a similar story in November with pictures of various sorts of fake influencer campaigns going viral.) Not only did you waste your money to promote counterfeit products; you also encourage and glamorize the activity of people like Kulichak.
But it's the danger of political ads, particularly paid political ads, that is most concerning. You don't have to be a hip creative to convince your followers on social media to vote Democrat or Republican. One study found that a good number of users who mentioned politicians in comments on a news article actually followed them on Twitter. And with the Federal Election Commission considering new rules designed to keep non-profits from making political ads on the internet, those comments could be counted as donations.
All the right ingredients are there for a car crash. Some of it may be self-inflicted. When Trump's 2020 primary campaigns were announced in January, he tweeted this photo of himself standing beside a ceiling-mounted screen-door. Looks familiar? Actually, he had tweeted it in October. What does that tell us? For one thing, Trump can picture himself re-enacting history. And that's a bad thing when those fantasies of greatness intersect with a nation's politics.
Possible alert: Your favorite cute-but-uncool brand is posting a picture of its mascot as the president. Who is he? 🔥 pic.twitter.com/cGQjB4L87e — Daniel I. Dorfman () January 22, 2019
Possible alert: Your favorite cute-but-uncool brand is posting a picture of its mascot as the president. Who is he? 🔥 pic.twitter.com/CQjB4L87e — Daniel I. Dorfman () January 22, 2019
So, over the next six months, we can only imagine how many changes are needed to prevent an ugly dust-up between white nationalist and a hip brand you follow.