Coca-Cola and Visit Peak District have both released statements in response to being featured in Channel 4’s Dispatches Investigation – Celebs, Brands and Fake Fans.
The investigation, which looked at how some agencies were employing strategies to unnaturally grow their client’s social media presence, featured both of the organisations, with Coca-Cola used as an example of a company who had, apparently unknowingly, hired an agency to employ people to increase campaign views.
Coca-Cola has denied hiring the agency to work on the featured Coca-Cola, called Shareyt.com.
The company’s statement in full read: “The Coca-Cola Company is committed to marketing honestly, transparently and with integrity across the globe and through all media.
“As part of that approach, we do not condone any use of ‘fake fans’ by our Company or our partner agencies. We have a strong policy of complying, and requiring our fans to comply, with Facebook policies and principles, and Facebook is actively policing fake users and accounts.
“We take these allegations very seriously and have investigated them.
“We have found no record of working with Shareyt.com. If we were to find any improprieties, we would work to end such practices immediately.
“We will continue to act with honesty, authenticity and transparency, as reflected in our Social Media Principles and Code of Business Conduct, across all media. “
Meanwhile, tourism body Visit Peak District and Debryshire, which was also featured for a similar reason, working alongside Sheffield-based social media company SM4B, has said that it did so “in good faith.”
The organisation’s CEO David James, continued by explaining the recruitment process for the agency: “As a matter of course, we undertook a reasonable due diligence exercise as far as our resources allowed, and did not find anything to suggest that the company was engaging in unlawful or inappropriate practices.
“We commissioned SM4B in early 2013 to promote an online competition on a trial basis on our behalf. The results were unsatisfactory, raising only ten per cent of the Facebook entries we received, and as a result the brief contact between ourselves and the company was terminated.
“As soon as we were presented with evidence that alleged SM4B was breaching legislation and operating in a fraudulent and dishonest manner, we formally severed all ties with the company and sent written confirmation to this effect,” he added.
“Visit Peak District & Derbyshire’s policy is to grow its social media activity ethically and legally, and we would never knowingly use dishonest and unlawful means to boost the popularity and reach of our online campaigns,” continued James.
“We welcome the programme makers’ confirmation that ‘there is no suggestion that Visit Peak District has behaved improperly in any way’, and would like to reassure the media, the public, all our stakeholders, commercial partners and members that we will make every possible effort to ensure that such an apparently serious breach of the ethical and legal standards we expect from our sub-contractors does not happen again.”
The programme also investigated alleged breaches of social media promotion rules by actors from Coronation Street.
Further reaction to the programme has been provided by agencies such as Blue Rubicon, SapientNitro, DigitasLBi, Weber Shandwick and We Are Social.