One of the best stories you probably missed last year was that of the missing Panasonic Tough Lumix FT10 digital camera. Found by a fisherman at the bottom of Cowan Creek near the Hawkesbury River in NSW, it was retrieved in perfect working order, prompting Panasonic to launch a campaign to reunite the camera with its owner.
Normally I’m a sucker for feel good stories that confirm we’re not all scum, but when I heard that Panasonic were driving the campaign, I thought it smelled fishy. And I wasn’t the only one.
While we all turned out to be wrong and the camera was legitimately lost and subsequently returned to it’s rightful owner, there was plenty of reasons for our skepticism. The same month the missing camera story broke, Panasonic had already been sprung trying to pass-off an actor as a real person in a campaign.
In each case, a brand had deliberately set out to deceive the public and when exposed, done a piss-poor job of explaining it, potentially causing long-term harm to their image and reputation.
I’m honestly surprised that in this age of openness and transparency, brands and their agencies would still engage in deceptive or misleading advertising practices. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the rise of social media is that the truth will come out and that privacy is disappearing. Brands need to remember that this doesn’t apply to the individual but to them as well and start behaving accordingly.
While it’s possible that the long-term impact to the brand is negligible since ‘it’s only advertising’ it makes the job of marketers and communicators that little bit harder when we do actually have something genuine and authentic to say when every message is either taken with a big grain of salt or dismissed altogether.
What do you think? Does advertising and marketing have a responsibility to be authentic?