Should Yahoo/Flickr Be Advertising Paid Pro Memberships as “Ad-Free Browsing and Sharing” When They In Fact Plan on Advertsing at Them?

Should Yahoo/Flickr Be Advertising Paid Pro Memberships as "Ad-Free Browsing and Sharing" When They In Fact Plan on Advertsing at Them?

Last week I blogged about the latest advertising campaign that’s shown up on Flickr, the McDonald’s “Show us What You’re Made Of,” campaign/group sponsored by McDonald’s “quality” group. The group is clearly commercial and designed to promote McDonald’s on Flickr. The group links directly to a McDonald’s page and encourages members to submit “tough questions,” to a McDonald’s owned forum where you can ask McDonalds “anything” about their food quality and get “honest, straightforward answers.”

Somehow I’d imagine though that you won’t find questions like this one from the U.S. Politics and the World Group on Flickr entitled, “Why I Don’t Eat Clown Meat.

Now whatever you think of McDonald’s (personally I’m a huge fan of the Shamrock Shake) the fact that McDonald’s is advertising on Flickr does raise an interesting point about truth in advertising. And that is, why is Yahoo / Flickr promising you an ad free Pro account when you pay up with an annual fee and then turning around and advertising at you?

And it’s not just McDonald’s. In the past few months several additional companies have now started advertising to paid Pro Flickr Members. In addition to the “Show Us What You’re Made Of” Mickey D’s group. Today I noticed that I could also now share with “Team Visa” what inspires me to “get moving.” By the way, someone should show the “Team Visa” admin how to change their default avatar from the blank flickr face to something more cool looking.

From the Visa campaign:

“What inspires you to get moving? Send in your photos of people in action— whether it’s an everyday activity like going to the movies, or a titanic event like scaling the Matterhorn, whether it’s swimming with dolphins, or walking the dog. And your pics could appear for Visa campaigns all over the world.

Have you ever been surprised to find out some place takes Visa? (Places like your neighbor’s lemonade stand, or a traveling noodle shop in Tibet.) If you have, send those pictures along, too.”

That’s it damnit. Cancel that American Express card pronto. The traveling noodle shop in Tibet now takes, yep, you guessed it! VISA!

But if McDonald’s and Visa are not enough for you, maybe you ought to check out the Nikon Digital Learning Center. Or how about the Kiss and Be Kissed Group (sponsored by Nivea). Or you can tell Kodak what your story is here. Or you can hang out in the uber cool “Life’s for Sharing” group sponsored by Deutsche Telekom (warning it’s in German). Or check this out. Ford Motor Company is now inviting a few very lucky select flickr members to be a guest editor on their “This is Now” blog through their “This is Now” group on Flickr (your bailout dollars hard at work I guess). All of these groups, by the way, are now prominently displayed on the main groups page for all free *and* paid Pro account Flickr members.

Now. I’m as much for Yahoo/Flickr making money as the next Taurus driving Nikon shooting hamburger hawking clown. But the point is, why are they pumping all these adverts out at paid members when they promise you an ad free experience on Flickr if you pay and upgrade to Pro. Whatever happened to, in the words of the immortal Hunter S. Thompson, “you buy the ticket, take the ride?”

My own opinion is that paid members ought to be exempt from having these adverts directed at them. Either that or Flickr ought to drop the “ad-free browsing and sharing” claim from their own advert above.

And this post was *not* brought to you by Burger King.

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  1. Jason says:

    All of these groups, by the way, are now prominently displayed on the main groups page for all free *and* paid Pro account Flickr members.

    Can’t you see the toggle to hide the Sponsored Groups on your Groups page?

  2. Thomas Hawk says:

    Jason, it doesn’t matter that you can “hide” them. The deal wasn’t “Flickr can show me ads as long as I can hide them. The deal was an ad free experience. But more to the point, even when you “hide” them they don’t disappear. They still appear in search and in other areas on Flickr. Even if you toggle the “hide” button on the sponsored ads they still show up in other places on Flickr.

    If flickr wants to advertise to pro members, fine. But take down the ad-free claim on their own adverts. Personally though I’d rather be able to pay (as I’ve done for several years) in order to opt out of all ads (even the sneaky ones) all together.

  3. Michael says:

    Thomas, as I paying flickr pro member I agree with your point that corporations sponsoring groups as advertisements is a bit annoying. For the sake of accuracy however I think it should be pointed out that Ford Motor Company has not yet taken bail out money like the other American auto companies.

  4. John says:

    You’d be the first to complain if they tried to censor your appreciation of flickr images, even those that have been posted to groups with corporate sponsors.

    Many professional photographers openly use their flickr stream as advertising – should that be hidden from you too?

  5. Thomas Hawk says:

    Michael, good point about Ford. The comment of bailout money was really meant to be more tongue and cheek but it’s a good clarification to make. Thanks.

    John, actually commercial use of Flickr by Professional photographers actually violates the Flickr TOU. Which states that commercial use on Flickr is strictly prohibited. But yes, somehow it doesn’t quite bother me as much if a Pro photographer puts their phone number on their profile page as it does seeing McDonald’s, Visa and Ford try to disguise their groups as legitimate user created groups in Flickr’s search results when I’ve paid to opt out of advertising.

  6. Eric in SF says:

    Flickr is on record stating they are OK with photographers arranging for work within the private FlickrMail system. They are not allowed to overtly advertise that they have product and services available. I honestly feel avatar names like “Eric Hunt Photography” should be against the TOS, but they are not.

    To Thomas’ point – I see the principle behind it, but my anecdotal data point is simple: I’ve never seen any of these sponsored groups, EVER, in my Flickring.

    I recognize that I am nowhere near the power Flickr user that Thomas is and that will affect how many sponsored groups I encounter. I rarely participate in groups and my searches are very focused in one narrow field.

    In fact, Thomas has done a spectacular job of providing social-media advertising for these efforts, as this report is the first I’ve heard of any of these sponsored groups. (I would have written a blog posting in such a way to not give these companies additional exposure. *grin*)

    So, I can’t disagree with your premise, but I wonder how many people actually encounter these sponsored groups?

  7. Lainey1 says:

    Holy Crap! If you join that nikon group, they have a blurb where they say they can use any photo you put in there in any way, shape or form. Any photo you put in their group can be used without payment to be placed in one of their ads? What kind of bullcrap is that?

  8. […] This blog post by Thomas Hawk lays out what Flickr is doing.  Here’s Visa’s group referred to by Hawks, Visa – Life in Action. This post from an Indian blog describes Coca Cola’s plan to use Flickr as a part of its “social media” advertising plan. […]