No one knows how to handle the currency shock. All of a sudden, fake has become mainstream news. When the demand for most consumer goods has nosedived, advertising has no option but to take a break
Delhi | November 30, 2016
No one, anywhere in the world, has a clue on how to handle the currency shock. No country has done what India is doing, at the scale India is doing. There are figures floating around, arguments for and against are floating around, economists have their own take on the issue, lawyers another. All this has led to a lull in advertising. When the demand for most consumer goods has nosedived, advertising has no option but to take a break. Yes there are mobile wallets and payment banks and unified payment regime, but beyond the promise of living life cashless, there is very little that is being advertised.
This week then let us look at how the social media has taken the mass media for a merry ride and how even Facebook needs to fix its terrible measurement matrix.
First the menace of fake news and how fake has become the mainstream news. Last week hundreds of people across WhatsApp shared a link that proclaimed that video calling would be enabled on your WhatsApp if you shared this link with all your contacts. Hundreds of thousands of us freely shared the link without even bothering to check if the news was correct. The forward came from a friend and there was no reason to distrust it. Similarly earlier people shared a link that allowed them to buy the newly launched iPhone at a fraction of cost. What looked like an apparent scam did not stop people from sharing the link. The news that the new Rs 2000 currency note will have some micro GPS and can read a satellite signal 120 metres under the earth became mainstream news. Fake news took mainstream news for a merry ride. I am not sure if the news channels did realise that they were taken for a ride and if they apologised for it. I did a quick search to discover that the news has disappeared from the official portals but there are independent people who have uploaded the videos of the broadcast. This is the stuff that will keep the stand-up comics busy for a long time.
How does fake news then get traction?
Itâ€™s all about the source.
Fake news is obviously false news dressed as real news; the design template of FB makes it look real. Itâ€™s human tendency to look at news that reinforces beliefs and reject information that challenges it. Remember India on Diwali night picture from NASA, or UNESCO declaring Narendra Modi as best PM or Indiaâ€™s National Anthem as the best anthem in the world? It all confirmed our biases. The second reason is the source. It is shared by somebody we know, we feel happy sharing it. Because such news comes with high count of shares, adds to overall appeal. When the lie is discovered, it is never shared as widely because it demolished the trust.
There are 1.6 billion of us on just FB and imagine the amount of money that can be made by inserting adverts based in fake news. Last I heard, fake news impacted the US presidential elections too.
But Facebook itself has been too lax in its measurement. First there was the issue of how FB counts video views. A mere three-second viewership was counted as interaction by FB. Now if I had autoplay enabled on my phone app, the video will play even if I didn't want to and FB will count it as in interaction. This has opened up the whole issue of how FB measures the interactions across the entire platform. Its reach and engagement figures are fairly opaque and often not open to a third party audit. Facebook is now the biggest digital engagement platform for hundreds of brands, FB is integral to advertising campaigns. Itâ€™s time for FB to do something about this. Google Display has similar issues about credibility of the display sites and brands have started to look GDN with certain scepticism.
Currency shock is making life difficult for the average man on street and for the brands. Both fake news and poor metrics are issues that add to the complexity of digital campaigns. Today FB is the first port of call for brands and both are issues that FB needs to address swiftly.
(Naresh Gupta is Managing Partner and CSO of Bang in the Middle. The views expressed are personal.)