Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Flexibility of Ethics

So while I did grow up in a green, leafy, bucolic setting, I spent some formative time in the not so genteel city of Cleveland. And I learned some very valuable lessons there. One of them is that if you want something badly enough, someone will be willing to sell it to you - be it drugs, sex or a shot at a quick buck playing 3 card monte. You are a fish, and fish tend to land in the net.


Now ultimately, we can make the argument that we are all adults, and we can make our own choices.
So let me throw a hypothetical at you -

You own a watch brand, and watch media outlet B tells you that for a certain amount of Swiss francs, they will include an article about your brand on their site. Seems fair enough, right? Well, yes and no. And that is where the US authorities tend to get a little thorny. They posit the notion that if you have a readership of a certain level, you at some point become defined as an "influencer". I won't bore you with all of the specifics, but essentially what it boils down to is that if you receive (i.e. require) monies in exchange for publishing a brand's information in your outlet, be it Instagram, Facebook, etc., you have to disclose that relationship - i.e. "this is paid promotional content". The logic being that if you have a certain audience coming to read content in your outlet, they are presuming that you have chosen that content for a particular editorial reason. This is particularly important in terms of so-called product reviews.

But for whatever reason, WatchTown - in particular its European neighborhood, tends to play by looser standards. And when you consider how laughable the Swiss Made label is in terms of actual Swiss made watch components and content, I guess it is understandable.

I thought I would share two of the expressions I learned on the streets of Cleveland that seem applicable here -

To Put Someone In A Trick Bag - now there are more than a few interpretations to this term, but essentially it means to lull someone into believing your schtick until they are stuck and can't get out the con you have foisted on them (or get out of the trick bag). In the watch media game it works like this - you own or represent a media outlet and you get brand A convinced that only your outlet will get them the exposure they need - and hey, it's only like $500! Well, while $500 is not exactly free, to the mark it seems as good as free, so they gladly write the check. But like every long con, getting you and your brand into the trick bag is a confidence game that is played out in several verses. The price will gradually ratchet up, and hey - would you like some ads to go with that paid content? It soon becomes clear that if you don't top up the meter your coverage will evaporate, and you will have to re-up or go looking for another hustler to score. You are now firmly in Outlet B's Trick Bag - let's hope it was worth it, 'cause you paid for it.

Don't Let 'Em Georgia You - The term can be confusing even to native English speakers and might have been first recorded by Iceberg Slim. In this instance, Georgia is used as a verb, and while it is intertwined with the language of prostitution, its meaning is essentially don't let someone have something for free. The big outlets out there have moved to a pretty cynical model of pay to play, because hey! Just because their "About Us" info says We're all about passion! that doesn't mean that passion doesn't have a price tag, and like many other forms of professionally passionate activities (both legal and otherwise), the rates can be adjusted by the hour, or whether or not you want clean sheets. More and more it seems that a few of the outlets ascribe to this particular term once reserved only for pimps.

Now we can argue that "everybody does it", but I think we've all been lectured on the logic of that argument by our parents or grade school teachers.

Ultimately, watch brand owners and brand managers have to make decisions which, more and more lately seem to be bereft of normal ethical concerns. And fair enough, they are selling watches, not cancer cures. But I will leave you with one final "Clevelandism" that was used when talking about Pay Day Advance / Check Cashing stores in poor neighborhoods -

The one important difference between them and a prostitute? A prostitute will make you wear a condom.

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