There was a time when we could trust a quote we saw on TV. Alright, maybe that’s not entirely true — since the dawn of television, there’s been critics who’ve liked seeing their name on it. But even if the quote was from John Everyman of Fox TV 4 Albuquerque, there was at least some sort of discipline behind it. Even if the critic was proclaiming White Chicks as the best comedy since Ghostbusters, you could at least think “well, it looks like not everybody despises The Wayan Brothers.” But a very unfortunate trend has emerged as of late where marketing agencies are using Twitter quotes to sell a product. It was first noticed with films (especially last year’s Grudge Match, which used an obscene amount of quotes from a single Twitter handle), but now it’s starting to seep into the video games industry and it’s time for journalists and consumers alike to take a stand.
The most ridiculous example of this is Microsoft’s latest Xbox One ad that has been running frequently throughout the past two weeks. It’s basically an “accolades” rehash of last November’s “Jump In” spot, except aletered to feature positive quotes. The first three are absolutely fine — quotes from Fortune, The New York Daily News and Entertainment Weekly — all of which are major, respected publications. Things get a bit more tricky, however, on the fourth and final quote. After the narrator lists the first three quotes, he goes onto say “but one fan said it best…” before reciting and showing the following on screen:
“The Xbox One is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to mankind.” Yes, that’s the actual quote Microsoft’s marketing is using. Not only is it ridiculous to use tweets on any level to sell products (a point we’ll get to later), but this is perhaps the most hyperbolic and absurd comment possible to make about a product. The wheel, penicillin or light bulbs weren’t the greatest thing to happen to mankind, but instead a video game console. Now, yes, it’s clear that this statement was meant to be hyperbolic. Of course the Xbox One isn’t the greatest thing to happen to mankind. It’s the sort of thing you say to your friends after driving in a new car or listening to an amazing song. We’re not critizing the original author’s choice of words. After all, he was tweeting them. But when Microsoft uses the quote on a commercial to sell a product, it’s giving validity to it and presenting it as a legitimate opinion.
Let’s stop for a minute and find out who exactly tweeted this. Here’s the exact tweet:
The Xbox one is the greatest thing that's ever happened to mankind
— Nick Allain (@nicholaseallain) November 22, 2013
The statement was made on November 22 at 1:21 PM, a mere 12 hours after the console was released. To date, it’s been retweeted 8 times and been favorited 10 times, which means it’s unclear if the tweet was seen by more than 18 people. That means that it has the same effect as saying it loudly at a quarter capacity Taco Bell. Let’s now look into who said it.
The tweet was put out one Nick Allain, a man currently with 8,624 tweets and a mere 321 followers (and this is post-commercial). If his Twitter description is to be believed, he’s currently a student at Harvard set to graduate in 2016. Impressive, but — a video game journalist? No. A professional in any field? No. Remotely connected to the industry? Nope.
The problem with Microsoft using a Twitter quote from “some random guy” is that there’s absolutely no credibility. “Some guy’s twitter” is not a peer-reviewed publication or anything that remotely has any sort of respectability. It’s literally equivalent to hearing somebody at Applebee’s saying the same quote, asking for their name, and publishing it. A quote from a critic is generally part of a larger article that can be referenced for validity, but this tweet could have been sent as a joke or simply to make conversation. There’s nobody to stand behind the words besides a stream of tweets.
In fact, it’s really not far off from simply making up quotes. Who’s to stop a company employee from making a Twitter account proclaiming a product anything they see fit. A friend could be asked to make a statement or even somebody completely random if it meant they would get on TV. This is the Twitter/Facebook generation, after all. There’s simply no accountability.
We’re not saying that companies shouldn’t use puffery to sell their products. If a marketing agency wants to find a critic that loved Fighter Within, then more power to them. Admittedly, in the day of blogging and copious amounts of online websites, critics can be unscrupulous. But there’s a difference between using even a burgeoning critic and a fan. Quoting a random positive tweet about your product from a guy not connected to the industry whatsoever is absolutely repugnant. It’s tricking millions of Americans by presenting a tweet as a valid opinion, especially when it’s sandwiched in with Forbes and Entertainment Weekly. Hopefully the legality shameful process is soon challenged in court, but until then, be wary of multi-billion dollar shysters.