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As Belvedere Vodka just proved: everything a brand says in social media is an ad in the eyes of the consumer

The above screenshot depicts an image posted to the Belvedere Vodka facebook page. With Facebook's new confusing extra pages, anything posted public with Belvedere Vodka in the text ends up on a page of it's own making it even harder for a brand to put out the fire.

What's the scandal? A screenshot from strickly viral's "awkward moments" was combined with a headline and Belvedere logo, and posted to the Belvedere FB page as well as on twitter. Who in charge of social media had the keys to the brands online presence but clearly no routine in going through proper channels? We're all ad-men here, we know that the brand did not buy a screenshot from some random viral video to use in their otherwise sleek ad campaign. Here's the awkward skit, for context. And yes, it's awkward...ly bad.

Hell, even TIME says it's "an ad". NY Mag says it's an ad. So without any media buy, nor seemingly the usual approval process of writing an ad as response to a brief and then executing it, having the client check boxes along every step of the way, one jokey-photoshop job is now forever "an ad".

What should we call this kind of ad? It's clearly not a happy accident. It's not a spec job either. Remember when VW was all up in arms over the fake suicide bomber ad that launched a creative teams career?

But in the yes of the consumer, everything a brand says in social media is "an ad", which just goes to show you how grown up social media has become. So Belvedere has to apologize, their first apology:

We apologize to any of our fans who were offended by our recent tweet. We continue to be an advocate of safe and responsible drinking.

However, this didn't resonate all too well with the crowds on twitter.
"Nice passive aggressive "apology." So you're still advocates of rape culture, 'eh?"

Their second apology came straight from Charles Gibb and was posted both on facebook and twitter:

“ My name is Charles Gibb and I am the President of Belvedere Vodka. I would like to personally apologize for the offensive post that recently appeared on our Facebook page.
It should never have happened. I am currently investigating the matter to determine how this happened and to be sure it never does so again. The content is contrary to our values and we deeply regret this lapse.
As an expression of our regret over this matter we have made a donation to RAINN.”

RAINN backs this statement up, saying they got a call from a " profusely apologetic " Belvedere vodka president, and that he offered "a generous donation to RAINN to support our work to help victims of sexual violence and educate the public." RAINN adds: "Nice to see a company that not only undoes its mistake but looks for a way to do good afterwards."

The joe-schmoe on twitter-response? Not that impressed: "I'm sorry, if you're so pathetic as to not have an APPROVAL PROCESS for all your online ads, then no apology is good enough"
Again, it's an ad, by virtue of having been posted to the brands photo-page on facebook.

This is the most interesting part to me. Not that a photo in a tweet and FB page has managed to spread via the social media it has been announced in, but that the public sees it as advertising the same way they see a biIlboard or a TV-commercial is. The difference between the billboard and the twitter-feed is that the former has to go through a strict approval process, while the latter is the brands voice the minute the young intern set to run the account hits return.

And it seems nobody, least of all Belvedere, has pointed out that the photo came from a skit at stricklyviral.com. Is this a "sponsorship" gone wrong, or more likely, did someone just screendump to make an "ad" they thought funny, without giving a second thought to the old-fashioned stuff known as copyright? What's worse, posting "a bad ad" on the brands facebook page, or posting "a bad ad that's actually a screendump from a skit that we forgot to seek permission to use..."?

The punter is taking your social media presence very seriously, it's time that brands did too.

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Wow, hold up, hold up. Seems that the shit is rubbing off on RAINN now, looking at some of the comments to their Facebook post about the Belvedere donation. Lets quote the juicy ones!

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Emmett O. Rabs I agree with Belle. Their apology is crap, this was a publicity stunt, and RAINN fell for it. That money is dirty money and you should have refused their donation.
Sandra Ellingsworth Whores who have been bought off by Belvedere's money! How much???
Ian Mitchell Because money makes everything okay.
Tom Hoffman Payolla over nothing! Two very sad organizations.
Emmett O. Rabs One of the worst parts about this is the disgusting rape apologists on the Belvedere page--especially the women. It literally makes my heart hurt when women condone or laugh about rape. Also, I am more than a little disgusted with RAINN for taking this money. Hush money indeed!
Mike Persin ‎@Emmet: I totally agree. RAINN doesn't need dirty money and should return it..Belvedere's ad is just as inexcusable as the donation of hush money.
Jason Spiegelman In other words, you are selling out because they gave you money. Sorry. Just lost respect for RAINN too.
Lori Moore You make me sick RAINN. You accepted a bribe from a company who is pro-rape. All of you who think this is great, you make me sick too. Belvedere Vodka's ad was highly offensive. Putting pro-rape out there. I'm disgusted with you RAINN. As are many others. Go to hell you pro-rape RAINN. Karma is a bitch.

You get the idea.