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Are “Reality-TV Commercials” More Trustworthy?

For TV ads, it seems that the social media sphere does not just serve as a real-world focus group, but also as a key part of the creative development. And that may make the spots more believable. Call them “reality-TV-commercials.” A good example is what Greek yogurt brand Chobani has chosen to do for their multi-million-dollar television ad buy – let the people tell the story (see the article in recent the New York Times).

Our question is: are these commercials filled with Twitter excerpts and YouTube clips more credible to viewers than a traditional, scripted and acted-out spot? Or does the general public simply assume that companies and their ad agencies are cherry-picking these social media clips to put the best story forward, while hiding all the “I hate this product” tweets?

The beauty (and risk) in excerpting social media in ads is that the public can immediately fact-check. I would imagine that if a prospective consumer took 10 minutes to search through the Internet on conversations about the Chobani yogurt stories, they can prove or disprove the claims made in the commercial they just saw. Best case: that can solidify them as a new customer. Of course, the risk is that they might find too many adverse comments for them to trust the brand.

Generally, the public will be fair and recognize that they’ll always find negative comments about any brand. But, if the predominant sentiment even loosely supports the TV commercial’s claims, trust is instilled. We spent just a few minutes on the Internet and stumbled upon a very robust discussion on Chobani at Daily Spark where hundreds of comments were posted. With very few exceptions, the average sentiment seemed consistent with their commercial.

Reading about and viewing these social media-infused TV commercials reminds us at CommCore about an important lesson on communicating in any wide-reaching medium: In the end, trust is about whether the company is perceived by the public as having told the truth to the best of their knowledge and ability. In our message-building sessions, we often refer to Aristotle’s On Rhetoric and how he describes modes of persuasion with Ethos, Pathos and Logos. We also often remind marketing teams and spokespeople that there are three elements of truth that should always be considered as an overlay when building a message, ad, script or any marketing piece, and that is that your words:

1. Must be true
2. Must be true to you (the communicator and company putting out the piece)
3. Must ring true to others (the general public)

One can never guarantee the public’s reaction, but if your ad strategy and words pass this test, you’re more likely to enjoy a positive response and strengthen trust. If social media is part of your ad strategy, you can count on bloggers checking out how you’re doing.

What do you think? Will social media excerpted ads prove more trustworthy than traditional ads? What other examples have you seen?