GM Thought of the Week – Reality bites for brands

The news is abuzz this year with social media scandals, brand safety and EU GDPR, with Digital Online advertising suffering potential adverse effects as a result.


If advertisers however are running in fear of their brands on data collecting social sites or being aligned with dodgy content on YouTube and choose to return to the safe haven of TV, today’s read on BBC news  was a reminder that there can be brand safety issues on the box too.


Long standing “scripted reality” TV show The Only Way is Essex (TOWIE) has come under fire this week for two of their lead male characters’ abusive language and behaviour towards their partners in the show.


Domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid has stated recent episodes demonstrate “really nasty, abusive behaviour by some of the central characters towards their girlfriends… it’s certainly worrying we’re classing this chauvinistic, entitled male behaviour as entertainment.”


Easter Sunday’s episode on the 25th March delivered 208,000 Housewives with Children impacts, and ITVBe remains a key channel choice for brands looking to reach UK mums, but can running in the ad break of this sort of content be damaging to your brand image?


Reading this article today (and being a dabbler in reality TV myself) I would certainly argue so. Not only is it potentially harmful to the susceptible young fans watching the show, but if I saw an advert straight after watching those scenes, that brand would not have positive associations for me, which could have long term effects on the consumer’s relationship with the advertiser, damaging purchase intent.


In addition to this, such reality TV stars are notorious for promoting teeth whitening, clothing and other #ads on their social media platforms. Both male stars in question have run paid for posts on their Instagram accounts over the last week, and I wouldn’t be best pleased if I was the marketer paying for these.


It’s a reminder that brand safety issues are ever-present across all media: social responsibility should not be diminished by a lack of scripted storylines and besides, “reality” is not always what it seems.


Ellie Start, Associate Director