It's not surprising that I have a complaint with the advertising industry. In fact, I have two complaints. Here's number one:
There are several amusing identity theft campaigns running for Citibank to which I'd like to take exception. The most recent, during the Michigan State/Notre Dame game, shows a guy in his garage/gym talking like a Valley Girl who's stolen his identity and uses the credit card to have a makeover and voice lessons.
Funny? Sure. Realistic? Hardly.
Most credit card fraud isn't the work of hillbillies looking to buy dirtbikes or teenage girls looking to pay for the aforementioned American Idolesque necessities. Admission: I've had my credit card number stolen. It happened through Paypal and the perpetrators used it to make a single $100 purchase from a company I'd never heard of (they sold generators and power supplies) and dump it into a hacked bank account and withdraw it. Consequently, several hundred other similar transactions occured as well and I ended up filling out an affidavit with the FBI. But I digress...
Fraud happens because there are people who get how to use technology to funnel money for illegal, illicit and unlawful purposes. They're not airheaded teenagers, and they're not slackjawed yokels -- it's very targeted, it's done here and overseas, and it's done to get a lot of money in a short period of timeout regard for legality and long term consequence.
Case in point: I had a student when I taught at a CC who told me that the internet cafes he visited in his home country were full of teenagers and 20-somethings trying to phish American credit cards. He even went as far as to ask me to review an .asp script he wrote to exploit Hotmail but he "couldn't quite get the personal information on someone's computer to send". Yikes.
So Citibank, and whomever their ad agency is -- show the reality. You could be showing a guy or two huddled around a computer trying to phish. You could show what happens with that money instead of making light of it or trying to make everyone feel as if it's a funny scenario -- because it's not. Speaking of virtual reality...
Pet peeve number two on advertising: Why use actors/actresses to give fake testimonials in commercials? I know that most customers don't look like Bradgelina, but how hard would it be to put actual customers in a commercial, giving a real testimonial? See, my clients believe in their products enough to trust them to give their honest feedback. Scoreboard?
Word of mouth 100,000,000 - Advertising 0.
Please, I'm begging all of the brand managers, ad agengy execs, even PR folks -- it's OK to lose control. You're still the king/queen of your domain. But people are going to do with your brand what they want - just accept it. Hell -- embrace it. These are people taking the time to make videos about your brand, create MySpace profiles and blog about it. Start a dialogue with them, pick their brains, show them you love 'em -- becuase the genuine connection you will create with them goes a hell of a lot farther than turning your head and ignoring it.