How to | NOT annoy people with social media ads

Remember the flashing advertisements that graced many websites in the early 2000s? I’d like to think that the internet has become home to better taste and design – where crude pop-up advertisements suggesting different vices are reserved for websites for watching online tv. However, it seems as if many social media platforms, once hailed for their user friendly aesthetic, are taking a turn towards the tacky. Facebook announced that it is going to include commercials in personal timelines that will automatically start playing. Pinterest sent out a kind email earlier this year that they are including advertisements and on Instagram product placement is taking place in various sepia tones.

It seems fair that social media platforms are cashing for the services they provide freely. Furthermore, since people are sharing a lot of personal information online, social media platforms provide businesses the opportunity to target their advertising to very specific groups – so advertising on these platforms is lucrative for investors as well. The question becomes: how should social media advertising be presented?

how not to annoy people

Classic commercials 2.0

In a sense, Facebook and Youtube are re-inventing the classic commercials formula – where commercials are put in between your content, and you may not be able to skip it. Videos pop-up between content (your Facebook timeline) or before you watch videos (on Youtube). These advertisements are clearly recognizable as marketing, and although they will be tuned in  to your assumed interests, they may still be intrusive by wasting your time or cluttering your timeline. ‘Forcing’ consumers to watch commercials is not necessarily effective – research by google shows that the option to skip advertisements increases the probability that viewers will click on it (source: Business Insider). In other words, consumers demand the choice in which advertisements they view, and which ads they ignore.

Subtle selling

On the other side of the spectrum, advertisements as they appear on Instagram aim to blend seamlessly with the tone of many Instagram photos. On a positive note, this means that they will not distract from browsing and they may not feel superficial and evasive. The Michael Kors advertisement initially had a negative reception, but ultimately resulted in 34,000 new followers (source: Nitrogram).  However, what if we don’t immediately recognize an advertisement when we see it? Is that an ethical problem?

Using social media culture

A third way to use social media to increase sales (or in the following example, donations) is not by directly using social media to place advertisements, but to use the cultural importance of social media to garner attention. Perhaps the most effective social media campaign of 2013 was the ‘hashtag killer’ campaign by the Water is Life charity. Winner of the Webby award, this campaign ridiculed the popular #firstworldproblem by asking people in Haiti to recite the tweets – thus emphasizing that complaining about ‘first world problems’ is really quite ridiculous. In this way, trends on social media, with which many are familiar, are put into perspective and associated with an organization. The only question that arises is whether the social media platforms can make money off this type of advertising by third parties.

drink & debate | how do you choose your charity?

When writing about the social life of food here, I started thinking about how ‘getting drinks’ with friends is also an example of where social rituals and the consumption of nourishment meet. Going to a café provides the ideal setting to catch-up with each other, so perhaps taking the time to make and enjoy a drink for yourself allows you to catch-up with your own thoughts?

Drink & Debate is about taking the time to pour yourself a drink and talk about little questions that might go unanswered in life’s daily grind…

drink & debate charity

The drink…blackberry-meyer-lemon-gin-tonicBefore putting on your philosopher’s cap…pour yourself a blackberry and Meyer lemon gin tonic. In many countries October is breast cancer awareness month, so a pink drink is fitting! Find the recipe here.

The debate

It feels like the idea behind philanthropy has shifted from a “here’s the money” approach to a “what’s the impact”. The question that this automatically raises is – what is impact?

How is impact related to the cause at hand?
How can the impact of a charity be measured?
How is impact related to how a charity is organized?

There are probably hundreds of causes that would be delighted with your money or time. However, choosing a charity to fund or a place to volunteer is a very personal choice. Perhaps this makes our ideas about the impact of charity a very personal dilemma as well. New technologies may be able to give a more transparent view of how charities and non-profit organization spend the donated time and money. Would you be more likely to donate to a charity if – like a postal package – you could follow how your money was spent through an application on your phone? Many charities are criticised if too much money goes to the organizational costs. However, if a business spends money on marketing, this is considered the norm…

I leave you with a ted talk to spark the debate!

images author’s own and  from here

business as (un)usual | Unpackaged

London’s Unpackaged supermarket has it’s own BYOB policy – bring your own box.


The problem:

Nowadays, most supermarkets offer organic or local products for the environmentally-conscious shopper. However, what are the options for consumers looking to reduce their carbon-footprint by cutting back on packaging? Efforts to reduce packaging are often limited to the ability to bring your own shopping bag.

The business plan:

Unpackaged requires customers to bring their own packaging – bags, boxes, old water bottles. Price is often determined by the weight of the amount of product you purchase or by the amount.

The branding:

The visual identity of the business is sleek and minimalistic. The name ‘unpackaged’ also does a good job at summing up the idea behind the store. The store interior matches the logo and online visual identity – sleek and black with some rustic touches.



Why it works:

  • The minimalist branding aligns with the business concept and prevents the store from becoming frumpy or hippy-esque
  • The business concept places the emphasis on a new problem: the over-use of packaging
  • There is no discrimination about the packaging brought in by the consumers – old water bottles and high-end Tupperware are equally accepted
  • By allowing the re-use of packaging from other products (water-bottles, yoghurt tubs) the consumer can partly re-deem the excessive packaging policies of other companies

images from here and here