Social-Media-Photo The Perils of Using Photos in MarketingThis week saw Facebook issue an apology after one of its advertisers, a dating site, used the photo of a 17-year-old girl who had committed suicide following an online bullying campaign after it was alleged that she was raped.

Facebook said that it has now banned the company from its advertising program and described the ad as being in “gross violation of its ad policies”, albeit too little too late for the family.

 The Perils of Using Photos in Marketing

“I am completely bewildered and disgusted by this,”

wrote Glen Canning in a message titled “Possibly the worst Facebook ad ever”.

“This is my daughter, Rehtaeh. They have her in an ad for meeting singles. I don’t even know what to say.”

Hate Campaign

Rehtaeh took her life in April, following a photo campaign that allegedly depicted her rape, which had taken place two years earlier, after she had gotten drunk at a party was posted online.

“People harassed her, boys she didn’t know started texting her and Facebooking asking her to have sex with them since she had had sex with their friends. It just never stopped,”

Rehtaeh’s mother Mrs Parsons told CBC News in April.

For the family, it’s easy to see how the appearance of her photo in an ad that promoted dating and featured her as a single woman could really cut to the bone.

Two 18-year-olds men have since appeared in court in Canada, where Rehtaeh lived, charged with child pornography offences.

Using-Photos-in-Marketing The Perils of Using Photos in Marketing

Love in Canada – or Not

The site responsible, “Find Love in Canada!” which referred users to has now been shut down and the owner is unavailable for comment. However, Facebook appears to be taking the blame for the most part, but is there really anything that the site could have done?

Indeed, is it Facebook’s responsibility to check out the ownership of all images that appear in their third party ads? A very tall order if anyone thinks they should and one that I’m not even sure is possible.

However, certainly the advertiser knew that it was a fake image and it’s likely that it also had a false profile to go with it, if a recent UK TV documentary on dating site practices is anything to go by. The onus is definitely on the advertiser here to ensure that they use images and information that have been checked and verified for the entire site, rather than ads alone.

Growing Trend

Using social networking photos is a growing trend though and so with this in mind, perhaps the networks also have a responsibility to protect the rights of the consumer and their personal data.

The recent changes to Facebook’s privacy policy have touched on this and caused something of an uproar, surely we’re entitled to say how, where and why our images have been used? Facebook maintain that the image was scraped from the net by the offending company and so has no direct involvement with them, as it was used without permission.

Retailers such as Urban Outfitters and Under Armour are two of the most recent retailers to join the trend and it’s reported that the firms are using the Fanreel platform by Curalate to gather user-generated content from the major social networks.

Opportunity Knocks

There is an opportunity for marketers carrying out this practice on a number of levels, not only do they garner valuable consumer data, it also means that they can connect with customers on a more personal level.

The problems come when users are not told how their information and photos will be used. This is equally the responsibility of the marketing/ad agency and it has to be for the social network too.

For Facebook, this means that giving advertisers blanket rights to use images from the site that depict its users just isn’t going to be good enough. Not everyone is opposed to having their photos used and a rewards system often helps advertisers to gain permission. However, this muddies the waters even further as people are then being offered an incentive to endorse a product and this isn’t true WOM (word of mouth) marketing.

Brands need to come up with a sound policy on how they use data from social media sites, or they risk seriously damaging their brand. One that successfully implements this type of advertising program, that pulls images from Facebook or Instagram, will have a great edge over competitors, but it’s an area that’s fraught with pitfalls, so it pays to take care and read the small print carefully.

Oh, and never to scrape images off Google!

MySocialAgency are a UK based digital marketing agency with a strong focus on social media. Get in touch and say hi.