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Mis-Communicator of the Week: HTC for its Tom Daley ad with a non waterproof phone

The blurring of the lines between PR, marketing and advertising continues apace and another brand’s reputation has taken a bit of a battering as a result. 

Content generation for consumer brands is huge business and a fantastic way to connect with target audiences like never before. The risk is - as it ever was with a traditional PR campaign - that the communication might be seen as more propaganda than public relations. 

Not a week goes by without the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) being forced to slap wrists or, sometimes (often), pull an advert altogether. 

That has been the case this week with the banning of HTC’s social media ad featuring star diver, Tom Daley. In the ad, Daley is seen doing his stuff from the high board while simultaneously taking selfies of his exploits. The problem: the phone (the HTC U11 for the tech-minded amongst you) is not waterproof. 

The ad itself was designed to showcase the phone’s squeezable sides which trigger the taking of a selfie. However, with Daley seen using the phone as he climbs out of the water, what is communicated is something quite different. 

In HTC’s own instructions for the phone they warn that it should not submerged in water making the brand’s exaggeration of the phone’s capabilities even worse. 

I’ll always argue that professional communicators are the best decision makers but only if they use all possible information available to them. This looks like a classic case of the content marketing team getting caught up in their creative bubble without checking in with the legal/tech/corporate affairs teams. 

Social media ads made by lawyers would be rubbish. But equally, being punished by the ASA publicly can do an awful lot of harm to the reputation of a brand or business so is best to be avoided, which is why HTC is my Mis-Communicator of the Week. 

Mis-Communicator of the Week is written by Edward Staite

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