Big Tech TV commercials paint a rosy picture of problematic industry



By Kerry Flynn, CNN Business

Facebook recently launched a series of TV ads that don’t feature any products for sale or any new features on its platforms. Instead, Facebook wants viewers to meet an employee named Jack.

Jack tells viewers he’s from New Orleans as he shows off what appear to be framed family photos. He says he’s a member of the Facebook content team and for the next 30 seconds, Jack is seen sitting down for a one-on-one conversation and answering a question: “What does you, is the most difficult in your job? The answer comes down to a “tough” decision making around moderating content on Facebook. But he says the government could help him by reforming Section 230 – a law that protects companies’ ability to moderate content – and issuing other regulations.

Why does this have to be a 60 second commercial on television networks? like CNN and Fox News? The strategy aligns with a lot of advertising: making the business look good. This is especially crucial for Facebook and other Big Tech companies that have been scrutinized by their own employees, users, regulators, and especially the media.

“The audiences for these spots are the same as those who listen to network and cable channels where Big Tech is featured in the news and not always in a flattering manner,” said Lance Neuhauser, president, sales representative at Mediaocean, a global company. of advertising technology. “Using the medium to present personal stories of grassroots employees that ordinary people can relate to is a good way to balance the preponderance of on-air imagery with Big Tech CEOs. “

Indeed, the humanizing effect of the dim lighting, music and personal anecdotes in Facebook advertising stands in stark contrast to how the company is portrayed by the media right now. A media consortium has published a barrage of damning stories – called The Facebook Papers – based on leaked internal documents that shed light on Facebook’s myriad of problems.

Facebook has deployed a number of tactics in recent weeks to influence the narrative. With reporters reporting the Facebook Papers, the company has taken to Twitter to undermine their efforts. Then, amid the deepening crisis, Facebook announced last week that it was changing its name to Meta, demoting its namesake product to a subsidiary. For those who watch TV, there are these commercials, which began popping up in early October after former employee Frances Haugen denounced Facebook’s challenges.

Another ad in the same series features an employee named Rochelle, who also calls for more regulation. The majority of ad impressions for Facebook’s two recent ads came on Fox News, according to iSpot, a company that measures the performance of TV ads.

While CEO Mark Zuckerberg was in full force for the Meta reveal, he is nowhere to be found in those commercials. It could be in an effort to bring the “face of Zuckerberg out of the limelight” when a consumer thinks of Facebook and privacy, said Beth Egan, associate professor of advertising at the SI Newhouse School of Public Communications. from Syracuse University.

Zuckerberg has “become so demonized through all the Congressional hearings and everything they try to put on that friendly face,” Egan said. Asked about Zuckerberg’s absence from the ads, a Meta spokesperson pointed out that Zuckerberg had participated in seven congressional hearings since 2018, most recently in March, where he argued for more regulation. The CEO also wrote an op-ed in 2019 for the Washington Post that called for more regulation.

Spending money on delivering positive messages is essentially advertising 101, but the tactic is especially blatant when businesses are under scrutiny. Amazon ran ads featuring employees like Ernesto, who says in the ad he worked as an Amazon warehouse associate before the company helped him with “training and tuition. “when he decided to become a medical assistant.

These types of ads are nothing new to Amazon. But the latest iteration landed over the summer amid more reports of “grueling” working conditions. Earlier this year, Jennifer Bates testified before the Senate Budget Committee about the 10-hour job at an Amazon factory and organizing a union. His testimony sparked a deluge of negative headlines about worker abuse, an issue long reported by the online retailer. Much like in Facebook ads, employees depicted in Amazon ads tell stories in first person and are presented with soft lighting and upbeat music.

Amazon “takes a page from Wal-Mart’s playbook and tries to put the face of” We’re here for you. We’re doing good things for you, “Egan said, referring to Wal-Mart’s ad campaigns 15 years ago, at a time when she was under heavy fire for her treatment of workers.

According to iSpot data, Amazon’s “Meet Ernesto” ad is the second highest spend in any individual TV ad and the fifth most viewed spot since it debuted on August 30. Amazon, according to iSpot, paid $ 43.4 million to run “Meet Ernesto,” which garnered 3.33 billion impressions.

The advertisements with Jack and Rochelle are the third installment in a series on Internet regulation. The previous episode featured people born in 1996 – Joshan, Adam, and Chava – talking about how the internet has changed since they were born.

Ads in which companies claim to be good for society will likely become more and more common as more consumers ask companies to align with their social values.

“It’s a societal shift, mostly driven by Gen Z, that really focuses on how I’m going to put my money where I say it,” Egan said. “I’m not going to buy from companies that don’t exhibit and treat their employees the right way.”

The-CNN-Wire
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