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The Five Most Horrifying Marketing Stories of 2017

2017 has been an… interesting…  year, to put it mildly.

Our highly advanced, globalized world has resulted in some fairly disturbing consequences. Most of these consequences are the result of huge culture and technology changes we took for granted decades ago. At the same time, issues that have been boiling under the surface have finally come to a hideous head, forcing us to acknowledge their presence.

This is the reality modern marketers live in, and it’s admittedly scarier than ever.

While most of the time we try to gloss over the dramatic “doom and gloom” aspects of a story, this week we’re going to indulge our darkest paranoias. So set up the campfire, get out some marshmallow roasting sticks, and invite everyone in the office to a round of horror storytelling that is likely to actually scare you senseless.

1. Facebook Obliterates Pages on the Newsfeed

Summary: A new newsfeed setup Facebook has been experimenting with abroad would shove all Page posts to a secondary “Explore” feed, making abysmal organic reach even worse. We wrote about it in-depth here.

Like any good scary story, this one had a dreadfully ambiguous ending. Will all Pages suffer the fate of their foreign counterparts that have been mercilessly experimented upon? Will Facebook finally put a knife in the heart of organic reach for all businesses? Only time will tell, but our guess is that the “Explore” feed is coming for us all …very soon.

2. Relentless Google Search Algorithm Changes

Summary: Google has been making rolling, unpredictable algorithm updates for “quality” improvements that have been toying with page traffic and are hard to keep up with.

Google owns a far bigger slice of our global economy than we ever care to admit, but they have been taking on the role of a superpower far less subtly in recent months. Case in point: their “quality updates” have been rolling out unannounced and under the radar, much like a monster from Tremors trying to get a taste of Kevin Bacon’s sweet, sweet mullet.

Google’s updates seem unequivocally focused on leading search users to sites with the best UX and content. But, the changes are also harder and harder to adjust to, let alone predict. Companies without the bandwidth to constantly develop their site and create new content could see their ranking slowly crawl downward. Not feeling in control of your fate and being pitted against your peers are classic survival horror tropes, after all.

3. Experian Data Breach

Summary: Following devastating ransomware cyberattacks that crippled entire industries, consumer credit reporting giant Experian revealed they left highly sensitive personal information for 143 million people open to hackers.

We’re not sure what’s scarier here: a multinational company gathering every financial datapoint on Americans without their express consent, or hackers opportunistically infiltrating said company’s records once they were exposed.

Cybersecurity threats are real, they are growing, and they are affecting more people with each breach. At the same time, online retailers and other sites are on a breakneck pace to collect more data from consumers than ever. What does this mean for the future? We shudder to think about it.

4. Fan Outrage Threatens to Tear the NFL Apart

Summary: Everyone knows this story because it has generated countless news articles, memes, and more Facebook rants than we would ever want to read.

NFL team owners are now torn between upset fans, potentially afflicted ratings, and the right for their players to express themselves rather than being forced to join in a pre-game ceremony. To make matters worse, Russian troll “sockpuppet” accounts have been stoking the controversy.

All political subtext aside, this situation represents a seemingly impossible choice for the NFL marketing and PR teams. Other companies may similarly fear getting embroiled in controversy where no easy hard-and-fast choices exist.

We live in an age where partisanship is worse than ever and people have more outlets than ever for expressing their viewpoints. Now, an action as simple as kneeling can generate millions of words’ worth of commentary and cause brand loyalists to insist they have been betrayed.

In other words, a marketer can now wake up to see one of their clients plastered all over the news for all the wrong reasons, and that should scare us all.

5. Programmatic Creates a Brand Safety Crisis

Summary: After content creators like Youtube’s PewDiePie uploaded highly offensive, polarizing content, advertisers appearing adjacent to the content had their reputations tarnished.

This story started small, but soon brands all over the world realized the implications. Programmatic audience-matching platforms had improved their reach and relevance, but they had also removed control over where ads appeared. As a result, “ some of the biggest beer and personal care brands, had pre-roll ads in front of terrorist recruitment videos on YouTube.”

Brands all over the world immediately pulled back on their digital ad volume to regroup and take stock. We now effectively live in a “post brand safety awareness” world where the promises of technology must still be accompanied by best practices and precise control over brand image.

Fight Back Against the Marketing Things That Go Bump in the Night

While we struck a somewhat lighthearted tone above, we at Everspark know that the dangers described are very real and very serious. The ability to predict and prevent PR crises in particular will become an incredibly important ability for brands moving into the future.

Let EverSpark interactive help you with our industry-leading Digital PR services. We may not be able to subdue every threat out there, but we can help you find your footing in a world that has gotten crazier and scarier than any of us remember. In the spirit of Stranger Things, contact us if you want to form a party today!