THE LATE comedian Bill Hicks was not terribly fond of people who work in advertising.
“Satan’s Little Helpers” was one of his favourite ways of describing them. He also thought watching television was like “taking black spray paint to your third eye”.
As far as Hicks was concerned, advertising was about telling lies. Anyone involved in the industry was complicit in sending out misinformation and breeding discontent. His rage against the marketeers erupted into a shaking spitting fury on stage.
Since Hicks died we have seen the emergence of a new type of marketing via social media. The world is full of bloggers, microbloggers and tweeters, blasting out commercial messages over social networks 24 hours a day.
Social media can be a speedy way of letting people know about a party, a campaign, or a comedy gig for that matter. But the lines between what is a communication from a friend and what is really an advertisment in disguise have become blurred.
Did a friend really “Like” Panasonic televisions or KLM Airways on Facebook? And how many messages we get via social media and Twitter have originated from a marketing department where people are employed to create a “buzz”?
I thought of Hicks this week when I heard the story of Poppy Rose Cleere, an online marketing and social media planner for HMV. Poppy’s job was to create a “buzz” around the ailing record company. She created a Twitter storm when she realised she was about to be sacked.
“We’re tweeting live from HR where we’re all being fired. Exciting!” she tweeted. “There are over 60 or us being fired at once. Mass execution of employees who love the brand.”
Did Poppy really love the brand, I wondered? Or did she love the brand because she was being paid to love the brand? Did Poppy even know the difference?
Before her Twitter password was revoked Poppy tweeted: “Sorry we’ve been quiet for so long. Under contract, we’ve been unable to say a word – or more importantly – tell the truth.”