If you are in your forties, you remember the early days of cable television when it did not carry commercials. And if you’re now a parent in your forties, you recognize just how saturated Disney Channel, Nickelodeon and the rest have become with their non-stop barrages of pop-up ads and relentless cross-promotion.
Marketers voraciously consume any platforms that aggregate a market, be it through broadcast or narrowcast. Thus Fan pages and the ever-expanding reach of Facebook Connect, CMO Twitter feeds and iPhone apps. It’s impossible to deny that advertising messed up cable when it was a nascent phenomenon, just as it will soon mess up Facebook, Twitter, et al. That’s already begun to happen as those platforms scramble for ways to cash in on marketing dollars and ‘synergies’, but at the moment, the larger threat to Social Networks is legislation.
In Erik Sass’ provocative piece for MediaPost, he describes how the FDA is investigating the way over-the-counter pharmaceutical manufacturers leverage social media. This government body has already announced that they are considering imposing a code of conduct; a possibility that prompted the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) to submit its own voluntary standards in hopes of fending off legislation. The result has been loads of theoretical conjecture and debates over the limits of various marketers’ “spheres of influence.”
Pharma messages have always carried heavy legal constraints. If you watched the Olympic coverage of the Four Man Bobsled Finals, you saw three different pharma ads for three different products, each saddled with a disclaimer that mentioned the same potential side effect of “suicidal thoughts.” That’s a pretty strong deterrent in an erstwhile sales message; “On second thought, maybe I’ll just learn to live with my Restless Leg Syndrome, Doc…”
And so regulatory agencies will try to clamp down on social network messages, an act that will inevitably expand beyond marketers to influence and limit individual networking. Safeguards, filters, guidelines: right now, they are set at the platform level but soon, expect to see them emanating from regulatory bodies.
I don’t think this because I’m a pessimist, it’s just that I’ve seen it before. You know, back when MTV aired music videos.
Yeah, I know. I’m in my forties.