When is Unethical also Ineffective?

3 Dec

Yesterday I saw a Facebook ad campaign from Brazilian condom company Olla. The campaign targeted men in their twenties, and created fake profiles for their hypothetical “accidental” sons using the men’s names with “Jr” added to the end. The fake baby profile then friended their “dad” with the message “Avoid surprises like this one. Use Olla Condoms”.

This is the video that the ad agency, Age Isobar, created to promote the campaign.

There are a few glaring issues with this campaign. Firstly, there is the invasion of privacy and inherent “creepy” factor of a company directly targeting individuals. Second, these fake friend requests are obviously a form of spam. Third, and most troubling to me, the entire ad campaign is based on a violation of Facebook’s Terms of Service, which clearly state that you cannot create a profile for a fake person.

Furthermore, these faux friend requests could be construed as harassment, impersonation, or a personal attack – all against Facebook TOS.

I did a search on Facebook and wasn’t able to find a page for Olla Condoms. Now, I don’t speak Portuguese, so that could be a factor in me not finding the page, but I didn’t find anything with the name “Olla” that might be this company’s official Facebook presence.

This leads me to two different conclusions. One is that they never had a Facebook presence, which makes a Facebook ad campaign even more ill advised. The second is that Facebook yanked their page for violating the TOS. Personally, I’m hoping that it’s the second. I would love for Facebook to finally start taking some action against users who violate the TOS.

What I did find was a lot of coverage of the campaign from US social media sites. Now, I won’t even get into how ticked I was to read from self-proclaimed social media “experts” how “brilliant” this campaign was.

When I posted this on my Facebook page, Nicole Bandes made an excellent point. She said, “But it worked. You’re spreading the message. In media they sometimes say bad publicity is better than no publicity! Sad but true.”

But did it really work?

All of that coverage I found was from US sites. Now, again, I don’t speak Portuguese, so that does limit my research on this. But let’s take a closer look at this campaign.

The target here is Brazilian men in their twenties. According to the CIA World Factbook, there are a little more than 18 million Brazilian men in their twenties, and according to Social Baker, about 9 million men aged 18-34 in Brazil are on Facebook. (See the footnote on this post about how I got those numbers.)

How many men do we think this ad campaign reached? 1,000? 5,000? It’s hard to say, but I would guess the number is closer to 1,000, based on the amount of work required to target the individuals, create the fake profiles, and send the friend requests. Based on pure speculation, I would guess that this cost more than an average social media campaign, due to the high degree of personalization and research involved.

So was it effective? Was it a good return on investment for Olla Condoms? I would say no. Sure, I’m talking about it, but as a women in my twenties living in the United States, I’m pretty far from their target audience.

What do you think? Was this an effective campaign?

***Notes on statistics. The CIA World Factbook claims that the population of Brazil is 203,429,773 with a birth rate of 17.79 births per 1,000 people. I divided the total population by 1,000 and multiplied by the birth rate to get the number of people born each year. Assuming a stable population growth, this gives me the number of people of each age in Brazil. I multiplied that number by ten for each of the years spent in your twenties, then divided in half – assuming an equal number of men and women. That gave me my 18 million figure. To get the number of Brazilian men in their twenties on Facebook, I used data from Social Bakers that gives the total number of Brazilians on Facebook as 30,453,260. Social Bakers shows that people between 18 and 34 make up 61% of Brazil’s Facebook users, so I took 61% of the total figure and divided by two to segment out the women.

One Response to “When is Unethical also Ineffective?”

  1. Jed P. December 5, 2011 at 8:25 pm #

    I definitely agree with Nicole …bad publicity is better than no publicity…it atleast gets some space in the readers’ minds 😉
    Jed P. recently posted..How to Avoid the Google SandboxMy Profile