Archive for the 'Ethics' Category


Healthier Marketing: Taco Bell Cutting the Cord On Kids’ Meals

Fast food chains have been constantly under critique since pediatric obesity became a leading medical issue.  The convenience and favorable taste of fast food makes kids’ meals wildly popular,


 their high calorie count and low nutritional value makes them highly criticized.  The unhealthy food is not the only problem.  Criti

In recent years, chains have begun to listen to health advisers. They claim to make steps toward healthier options, however, these changes might just be cosmetic, rather than a true interest in a creating healthier community.cs have long despised the marketing tactics of these restaurants, especially their relationship with children. The toy offering with each kid’s meal has been called unethical since children beg for the toy, not understanding the unhealthy food that comes along with it.

So far, Taco Bell has become the first national fast food chain to eliminate kid’s meals.  This decision was made following intense pressure from health advocates to eliminate the meals in order to promote healthier food choices for children.  However, CEO Greg Creed says that the pressure from the advocates was not the only force driving the elimination.  Creed says kid’s meals were not profitable for the company, representing only .5% of total sales, and the meals did not suit their target market of millennials.

Other fast food chains feeling heat from health advocates include Jack In The Box which eliminated the kid’s meal option in 2007, however Jack In The Box not a national chain.  For their Kids’ meals, McDonald’s, added apples and downsized the fries. Yet the toys still remain and the kids want them. Trust me, I was specifically asked by my five year old for dinner from McDonald’s last week so he could “get a cool toy”. Which I interpret to be: a piece of plastic crap surrounded by junk food he barely likes and hardly eats. And yet McDonald’s got my money.


According to various reports, the real reason most brands eliminate kid’s meals or add healthier options is to increase their brand image.  Taco Bell looks good to health advocates and to the public by eliminating possible deceptive marketing to children that comes from offering cool toys in meals. Also, these other options do an excellent job of bringing customers in the doors, where they usually continue to buy the unhealthier menu choices and a profit is still made.

Should brands shift towards healthier food options, even if its not for healthier reasons?  Should Taco Bell be praised for eliminating the kid’s meal, even though they are doing it for primarily fiscal reasons? Is McDonald’s still king because apples are in  happy meals and the fries are smaller, or does it really make any difference?

Tell us what you think in the comments, and head over to our Facebook or Twitter at @weise_ideas.  Be sure to visit us at at


Social Media Marketing: Chipotle’s Method to Their Faux Hack Madness

Last Sunday, Chipotle’s twitter account, known for having one of the most social, appeared to have fallen prey to the works of a hacker.  @ChipotleTweets released a stream of tweets that appeared to be a list of commands to Siri about directions, google searches, and texts. Tweets

Later on during the week, Chipotle admitted to the public that the twitter hack was just a publicity stunt tied to their 20th anniversary campaign, “Adventurrito.”  This announcement received mixed reviews from critics and fans, saying that the fake hack broke the trust of their customers.  This move is not that uncommon, with MTV and BET faking account hacks for publicity only a few months ago.

There is no doubt that the fake stunt increased Chipotle’s publicity; they gained 4,000 followers in a day, as well as publicity all over news and social media sites, but is this success worth their deception?

When it comes to faking account hacks, a real one is a nightmare for community managers to imagine.  But, a planned hack gives off an air of shameless self-promotion, leaving fans and followers feeling foolish.  Social media has helped many brands come closer to their customers, but alienating them on these sites can destroy their long built reputation.


chipotleChipotle was able to shy away from alienation and deception by giving their hack an underlying purpose; Adventurrito clues.  The puzzle of the day that Sunday was about the ingredients in Chipotle’s guacamole, so some of the tweets that appeared to be Google searches and texts were actually hints on the puzzle.  Chipotle has been hiding clues for their Adventurrito puzzles across all media, so the purpose of the hack was to follow along with these other hidden clues.

Instead of harmful tweets that might look even worse on the brand, Chipotle made sure their tweets were planned well, shying far away from anything hateful or controversial.

Planned social media hacks can appear to be bottom of the barrel self-promotion, but if executed with a deeper plan, such as clues for a contest, Chipotle is helping their customers, along with themselves.

Was Chipotle’s fake Twitter hack a terrible misstep in their otherwise untainted social media reputation?  Or was it a creative reinforcement to their Adventurrito campaign? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below, and on our Twitter and Facebook!


Should Advertisers Have a Moral Responsibility?

Mobile advertising is everywhere. When we leave our homes we come into contact with billboards, branded trucks and busses covered with ads. In 1990, Colorado became the first state to allow school bus advertisements. Since that time, the practice of school bus advertising has spread to a number of states. Some states already allow advertising inside of school busses as well. As the popularity continues to spreads the controversy surrounding the practice does as well. Critics say that exposing impressionable young children to ads that appear to be endorsed by their educators is problematic.

According to a study by Alpha Media, a Dallas based company that manages ads on 3,000 school buses in Texas and Arizona, districts with 250 buses can expect to generate about $1 million in four years from selling exterior bus space to advertisers. Although ads displaying profanity, alcohol, tobacco and adult content are prohibited, there are still ads being presented that are unfavorable to impressionable youth.

School aged children are young and impressionable, and school bus ads present exposure to advertising that may not be appropriate for children. Although the amount of exposure and residual monetary gain is clear, these advertisements have clear influence over the children who come into contact with them each day. The two main issues being raised in opposition to school bus ads are the potential safety risk the ads could present by distracting drivers as well as the chance that children will interpret ads as an extension of their education systems.

Although many school districts incorporate healthier nutrition and lunch programs, junk food ads are on the side of school busses. Such contradictions confuse youth. Thus we must consider if school bus ads have the potential to do more harm than good.

Have advertisers and state governments gone too far in moving forward with school bus ad campaigns or should this practice be seen as simply another avenue to expand marketing efforts, increase visibility and maximize revenue?

To share with us your thoughts or learn more about different modes of advertising and reaching your target market, contact us on Facebook at Weise Communications and follow @Weise_Ideas on Twitter.


Franchise Marketing: Social Media Policies to Avoid Creepy Behavior

An account coordinator in our office experienced a highly questionable encounter with an individual at a franchised barbershop. I am not going to mention the specific name of the company, I think it will be sufficient to say it’s a franchise. It’s a barbershop. There are locations in Denver. That only leaves four or five options. Any of them could be a culprit.

The issue at hand concerns an employee using social media to directly contact customers. Here is how the situation unfolded:

“Yesterday I went to [name deleted] to get a “fresh cut.” Upon entering the store I was asked for my first and last name. I gave it to the girl without objection, but wondered why she needed both. I understand needing a name to call you when they are ready and occasionally people have the same first name, but there were only three other people in the shop and I was the only one waiting. I got my haircut, said goodbye to the receptionist and walked out.

“Last night I received a Facebook message from the receptionist asking if this was the same person that was at the shop. She wanted to connect on Facebook and get to know me.”

Creepy. Stalker-like.

This incident raises a lot of questions about the ethics of employees using social media to connect with customers. How does a Franchisor dictate the appropriate social media behavior of employees in stores that are “individually owned and operated?” Even if social media guidelines are in place, are they available and known by all of the employees in all of the stores nationally and internationally? Are the rules enforceable and do they address this type of behavior?

These are issues for franchisors to consider when developing social media policies. Protection the brand is more than just making sure tweets are appropriate and the right logos are used. The BRAND is seen in every detail of employee interactions with customers. Allowing one employee to go rogue with the use of social media can create a huge issue for any company that could destroy even the most well-established brand.

What do you think? Was this behavior appropriate in a world of blurred social boundaries? What does your franchise system say about social media interactions with customers? Tell us here.

To find out more Weise Communications and how we handle social media, follow us on Twitter or check out our Facebook account.


Health Care Ethics and Communications Online: When Doctors Google Patients

These days patients are almost expected to Google their medical providers. Does the same hold true for physicians regarding their patients? I recently read an LA Times article “You, your doctor and the Internet,” written by Judy Foreman. In an short excerpt of the article, Foreman writes about a physician, a psychiatrist none the less, who Googled a patient. The article states:

“’There may be times when it’s appropriate for doctors to Google patients,’ says psychiatrist Benjamin Silverman, chief resident of the McLean Hospital adult outpatient clinic.

“Silverman has a patient who stopped going to therapy without explanation. ‘I was concerned,’ he says. ‘I Googled her.’

“The patient was not upset, but Silverman felt he had crossed some kind of boundary. So he told her. ‘If we were going to continue treatment,’ he says, ‘I thought it was necessary for her to know that I had done this.’ ”

Since I did not write or research this article, I don’t know what information we are missing. For example, what happened after Silverman Googled the patient? Was a personal contact made? Why did the patient come back to therapy? Was it because of a contact made or was it simply spontaneous with no connection to the online actions? And of course we have no idea why the patient was in therapy to begin with, but does it matter? McLean Hospital is an outpatient treatment facility for mental health and substance abuse issues. That tells us enough. Having worked with numerous mental health practitioners on developing PR and marketing programs, I know the influence these professionals carry and the hesitation most have with putting undue pressure on their patients.

Which leads me to disagree with Silverman. I believe there are no times when it is appropriate for a physician to Google a patient. While the Internet goes a long way of breaking down personal boundaries, if a patient is choosing to leave therapy or to leave a certain practice, that choice is the patient’s and the doctor should leave it alone. While the debate in my office continues about the efficacy of Silverman’s actions, I personally would not approve of physicians, especially psychiatrists, looking into patients personal lives through channels that were not approved for disclosure in an official therapy related capacity.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Health care facilities need to clearly distinguish what online behavior is appropriate and what isn’t. While your social media rules may be clearly written (or maybe not), it is important that you don’t forget to include reminders about overall acceptable behavior with online communications – behaviors that didn’t exist before “Google” became a verb.

What do you think? Is it OK for doctors to Google patients? What about when the intent is clearly to influence a patient to return to treatment? Does it depend on the type of medical service being provided? Let us know your thoughts!


General Mills…to disclose or not to disclose?

General Mills is now using a blog-influencing campaign to encourage over 900 bloggers to try their products and blog about them. The network, MyBlogSpark, is distributing free product samples for the group to try.


Brandweek’s Brian Morrissey mentioned in his article that, “The company (General Mills) suggests bloggers inform readers they receive products for review, although that is not a requirement for participation in the program. It does not compensate the bloggers in any other way, according to David Witt, brand public relations manager for the company.”

Moving forward, I think corporations reaching out to influential bloggers is a good strategy. However, as we made clear in our previous post (CARNIVAL) it is vital that these bloggers clearly disclose the nature of their relationship with said corporation.

At the present time, General Mills does not have a policy like this in place. I feel they should require their members to disclose their relationship in order to participate in the network, instead of taking advantage of the FTC’s sluggishness in putting forth legislation that addresses this issue.

What are your thoughts on bloggers disclosing their relationships with corporations?


Kellogg Company misleads consumers

miniwheats1Recently, Kellogg Company was handed a wrist-slap by the FTC for misleading consumers during a national campaign to promote its Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal.

According to the FTC, “Kellogg claimed […] that a breakfast of Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal is clinically shown to improve children’s attentiveness by nearly 20 percent. The complaint alleges that, in fact, according to the clinical study referred to in Kellogg’s advertising, only about half the children who ate Frosted Mini-Wheats for breakfast showed any improvement in attentiveness, and only about one in nine improved by 20 percent or more.”

As far as I can tell, Kellogg is not going to be fined. Instead, they are being asked follow the rules. According to the FTC:

“The proposed settlement would bar Kellogg from making comparable claims about Frosted Mini-Wheats unless the claims are true and not misleading. It requires that claims about the benefits to cognitive health, process, or function provided by Frosted Mini-Wheats or any morning food or snack food be substantiated and true. The settlement would prohibit Kellogg from misrepresenting the results of tests, studies, or research regarding any morning or snack food product.”

I think that a national brand like Kellogg should be fined because they should have known better. Instead it sounds as if the FTC is just going to give them a warning. This is a great learning opportunity to remind all brands that their advertisements need to be factual and not misleading.


The Ethics of Mind Control

Mind control? Really? That’s what I keep reading in reference to the ethics of neuromarketing. Just because someone knows how to push your buttons doesn’t make it mind control. But it’s definitely intimate.

There are also a lot of references to the movie “Minority Report” and how the technology recognized Tom Cruise’s character and showed ads that spoke directly to him (you know we’re going there). Surely neuromarketing is the beginning of our road to such a place, but I have to say that I’d be happy to never see another ad for a ladies’ razor or have to hear about those “not so fresh days.” I want ads that appeal to me and me alone. Otherwise they are an annoyance.

I’m crawling down off my soapbox now to admit that I’m focused purely on the silver lining of all things neuromarketing, and to ask for your opinion. There are no videos today. No links. No photos to entice you to read. Just a pure platform for your thoughts on the ethics of everything we’ve talked about this week.

So spill it. Or I’ll be forced to read your mind.

Tomorrow: Our last day of neuromarketing and the official word of whether or not it actually works.

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