Big Tech Advertising: Olive Branch or Smoke Screen?

Most marketers find themselves paying close attention to the television ads that air during their nightly time in front of the TV. Advertising is a fascinating study in social strategy and messaging, and marketers tend to be observant of the initiatives other brands are taking to reach consumers. With this awareness, it’s likely that most marketing professionals have noticed a marked increase in the number of ads appearing from prominent tech brands such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google.

It may seem random, but it isn’t. Several key factors likely played into this strategy to push out mainstream advertising in order to update a brand’s reputation or make a push for consumer involvement. Let’s take Facebook’s recent advertising campaign around Facebook Groups as an example.

Several commercials are in current rotation promoting the community provided by Facebook Groups. In one version, a bunch of dads gather in a Facebook Group dedicated to sharing time with their kids at sporting events. Another version shows a Group bringing basset hound lovers together for a day at the beach. These commercials have one common thread: community.

Facebook is currently under a heavy amount of scrutiny, both for its allowance of incorrect information as well as its lack of respect for consumer data privacy. Several presidential hopefuls for the upcoming 2020 race have expressed a desire to rein in the powers of big businesses such as Facebook in hopes of limiting their control over data and its use.

Because of this, the social media giant has attempted to change its tune. It’s rolling out a new News tab that promises to both pay publishers fairly as well as prevent the spread of false information. It’s made promises surrounding the consumer data privacy debate. It’s placed much emphasis on the “do-gooding” that it’s involved with all over the world, connecting communities that previously had no way to reach the outside world.

This most recent round of commercials is also intended to foster a more positive image of Facebook and to create a safer message around the idea of bringing people together around commonalities. While, of course, we aren’t privy to the internal strategy behind this campaign, the timing certainly seems to point to an effort to win back public favor and place the brand more solidly on the positive side of the spectrum.

Other tech brands and big businesses have also come out with their own campaigns centering around social causes or community. Advertisements for devices such as Amazon Alexa or Facebook Portal focuses on the idea of connecting people, no matter what the distance between them may be.

As consumers, it’s important to view advertisements such as this with a grain of salt. Yes, companies such as Amazon and Facebook have done massive things to advance and improve the world we live in. But there is also a cost that comes with such rapid, large-scale advancements.

With conversations swirling more intensely around the idea of antitrust laws and data privacy, consumers can expect these brands to continue to up the ante to try to achieve that elusive metric of consumer trust.