Back in the 1860s, the song Champagne Charlie
was sponsored by champagne firms. In the 1950s, medical journals advertised cigarettes, which were endorsed not only by celebrities but by doctors
. Such endorsements are not necessarily insincere: George Leybourne's untimely death at the age of just 42 may have had something to do with overindulgence in wine, women and song; and even GPs have been known to smoke the odd cigarette on occasion.
In the Internet age though, there is massive pressure, massive, opportunity and massive reward for those who push the right buttons with the public. Korean artist Psi is an obvious example of this with his 19 million plus off-beat hit viral YouTube video Gangnam Style
In the Dispatches
programme Celebs, Brands and Fake Fans,
- currently on Demand 4 - documentary maker Chris Morris set out to replicate that success by putting together a fake band with a truly awful song. If Pump And Squeeze Me
by Wrong Direction sounds so obviously phony, how then did it rack up over a hundred thousand hits on YouTube
Morris has the answer, he went to Dhaka in Bangladesh and "bought" likes from a click farm. You couldn't make it up. The main man in Dhaka has a large team working three shifts in an office logging into Facebook and other social media using fake accounts, clicking the like button time after time after time. There is also an outfit doing it in the UK; in Sheffield he meets a guy whose clients include Visit Peak District
, which is funded by the Government.
Then there is the little matter of celebrity endorsements; Channel 4 faced a threat of legal action from ITV for including allegations against some of its names, but rightly responded publish and be damned. How would you like to pay £500 to have your product tweeted? There is a firm in the UK who can do this for you, at least they could until this programme was screened; don't count on them doing it next week. What is the rationale for this? As one pundit points out, advertising is more effective when people don't realise it is advertising. But of course, you knew that already. Did you know though that you could have Brooke Vincent for the price of an ankle bracelet, a bottle of champagne and a box of chocolates? Well, women have sold their honour for less.
The denials of the Z list celebrities concerned when confronted with the evidence sound as phony as their soap opera scripts, and of course the company has a slightly different explanation for its services.
So what is the legal position? Well, sitting up all night clicking the like button on numerous fake Facebook accounts or tweeting for cash is hardly serial murder, but at the very least, the ASA
code has been breached, not to mention the terms and conditions of Facebook, Twitter and others. These are free services guys and gals - so don't abuse them.