Where to share your advertising message in an ever divisive world?

Where to share your advertising message in an ever divisive world?

Print, Broadcast, Online or Cigarette Packs?

Imagine an advertising medium that is easy, fast, and cheap (or free). In a very crowded marketplace, you could choose where, when and how much advertising you bought. You get loads of analytics about who saw your ad, when and for how long. But you may or may not know if they truly convert into a a customer. Lastly, there was one other thing you need to know about this advertising medium: it’s cigarette packaging.

It’s doubtful that many brands would step up to buy advertising on cigarette packaging. But, yet where do we find ourselves in 2021 with social media advertising? It sure feels like the equivalent of advertising on a pack of smokes. If you’ve seen Netflix’s Social Dilemma, it’s hard to argue that social media is benign. It may be damaging youth, teens and adults by heightening fear, anxiety and social disconnection.

Our Own Social Media Dilemma

Social Dilemma Filmmaker Jeff Orlowski explores modern social media platforms as business models based on algorithms that encourage addiction and privacy breaches. Orlowski doesn’t mince words: “From my perspective, that means they have to move off of this business model, that they have to serve society’s interests first, that they’ve gotten so big, they’ve become public utilities,” he says. “They can’t serve the advertising model and be funded that way and still garner the trust of the public.”

Brands Reconsidering

There is a trove of brands reconsidering social media ads, either as a reaction to overall harm or criticism for how social media stokes specific issues such as hate speech and bigotry.

From a LUSH cosmetics 2019 announcement:

We’re switching up social.

Increasingly, social media is making it harder and harder for us to talk to each other directly. We are tired of fighting with algorithms, and we do not want to pay to appear in your newsfeed. pic.twitter.com/nJUzG0lham

— LUSH UK (@LushLtd) April 8, 2019

In July 2020, hundreds of brands stopped social media ad buying due to the Black Lives Matter movement. They boycotted social media giants like Twitter and Facebook as platforms that amplify bigotry and hate speech. The boycott amounted to hundreds of millions of lost ad spending in one month, but it appears that most brands re-engaged social media spending in the time following.

What about Main Street?

Big brands are one thing, but where does that leave mom & pop local businesses, restaurants and pubs? Their social media feeds may be the only way they can affordably connect with audiences. I’m very concerned about social media and the harm it can cause. Ironically, I founded a social media marketing company in the late 2000s when it was hard to convince brands what Facebook was, let alone they should do it. Fast forward to 2021, and I see the very divisive social impact of social media.

If my company stopped social media advertising (we never really started) or activity (we do a little posting), would our literal tens of followers even notice? Probably not. But for many restaurants, pubs, and small retail, social media IS their way to connect. For them, there is no clear answer.

What can we do?

If you’re like me, concerned about Social Media Advertising in an ever-divisive world, please consider:

  • Occasional social media posting and audience interaction. Keep it positive!
  • Restrict or stop your social media ad buying.
  • Increase analogue audience engagement — go old school and write notes to your clients, give them a telephone call, devise new promotional custom merchandise or even a direct mail piece.
  • Revise and relaunch your self-published digital products: blogs vlogs; podcasts, e-newsletters and of course — your good ‘ole website! These are digital assets you control.
  • Turn off notifications and tighten your digital security for your mental health.


We’re happy to chat about this further or brainstorm ideas with you and your team. Give us a call or drop us an email. Please don’t tweet us.

About the Author

Rich Patterson

Patterson Brands

Since 2005 Rich’s own company Patterson Brands has been transforming client brands into elevated and engaging products, designs and packaging. You can find Patterson Brands on the web, Instagram and Facebook.

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