Snoop Dogg is toying with your trust

Social media means anyone can claim anything, and strong opinions spread further and faster than anything. Truth is irrelevant.

Snoop Dogg made a sombre announcement on Instagram yesterday: “After much consideration and conversation with my family, I’ve decided to give up smoke. Please respect my privacy at this time.”

‘Smoke’ is, of course, marijuana, the herb on which Snoop has blazed an empire. Thanks to a few dozen weed anthems, countless public proclamations of his prodigious intake, and his own line of cannabis and cannabis-related products, Snoop’s perma-baked image is so intertwined with weed that this declaration made international news immediately after being posted.

You’ll notice he said ‘smoke’, not weed. My guess is he will announce a vape line or an edible marijuana product within the next week.

This is pure speculation, based on the sheer amount of products (both weed and non-weed-related) Snoop has shilled in the past, and the mischievous nature in which he handles his social media accounts, coupled with the comedically serious nature of the above post – with the shading, prayer-hands, and autograph.

It reminds me of a similar campaign fronted by The Veronicas that was up for an ARIA Award this week. (Yes, ads can win ARIAs now – read more here).

The premise of the campaign was that Jess and Lisa Origliasso had broken up The Veronicas, wiped their Instagram feeds clean, and the sisters had each gone solo.

It was soon revealed to be part of a Vodka Cruiser campaign “in celebration of feminine self love and putting yourself first”, although the two solo singles were actually released. They sounded like the types of songs that would soundtrack a Vodka Cruiser ad.

“PSA The Veronica’s HAVE NOT broken up,” Lisa Veronica revealed on Instagram shortly after the prank. “We are powerful together, but we can be equally as powerful alone.”

And by ‘alone’, she meant ‘in partnership with Vodka Cruiser’.

These ‘gotcha’ advertising campaigns are fun, and definitely hook in the gullible, understaffed news outlets of the world, who duly spread the false messaging and therefore the desire to drink responsibility – but with so-called fake news rampant, and trust so crucial for brands these days – such campaigns may soon prove too dicey a game to play.

In 2019, The Veronicas fronted a six-episode MTV series that was basically them squabbling for three hours, so the idea of them splitting wasn’t actually surprising. This is why the campaign was so effective. People believed it, and people cared. Of course, it also upset people. It’s a risky move to assume the stakes are low just because the subject matter seems light-hearted. After all, fewer things matter more than pop music.

Pranks are fun, sure, but people might not trust you afterwards. Do you really want the first reaction to be second-guessing?

Trust is already at a nadir. I just mean, generally speaking. We can’t trust companies to keep our personal and financial information safe. Thanks to deep fakes, video evidence is no longer evidence of anything. Nobody believes what they read, because the last time they did, they probably read that The Veronicas were splitting up.

There’s rampant distrust in the media and distrust in brands. Social media means anyone can claim anything, and strong opinions spread further and faster than anything. Truth is irrelevant. ‘Fake news’ is a recent catchcry, because the superhuman ability to disseminate fake news, globally and instantly, is a relatively new one. “Alternative facts” was a joke in 2017 during Trump’s inauguration, but five years later, “alternative facts” is now a business model. On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.

Of course, when trust is at an all-time low, it’s also at an all-time premium.

Disinformation is dangerous because it works.

Around ten years ago, there was a brief trend of ‘prankvertising’ which was exactly what it sounds like: real pranks, with a product at the centre, designed to go viral.

A famous example is this LG Chile campaign from 2013, where unsuspecting job applicants are called into an office, with a hi-res TV screen placed where the window should be.

When a meteor appears on the screen and hurtles towards the office, the TV is so lifelike, the people are fooled into thinking the scene is actually unfolding outside. Or so we are meant to believe. It’s probably fake.

Less successfully, Nivea scared a series of passengers at a German airport by making them think they were mistaken for fugitives, only for a series of armed guards to drily reveal it was an elaborate ‘Stress Test’ campaign for Nivea’s deodorant range. Post 9/11 airport trauma fun! Maybe it’s fake. It’s hard to tell.

Psychologist Tim Levine talks about how we humans tend to “default to truth” when listening to another – meaning we naturally assume what others are telling us is true. Malcolm Gladwell wrote an entire book on this theory, but, in order to function as a society, we all rely upon the shorthand assumption that people are being truthful in their interactions with us. Otherwise we would just be paralysed by inaction and suspicion, having to fact check the veracity of every single thing we encountered.

“What we gain in exchange for being vulnerable to an occasional lie,” Levine said, “is efficient communication and social co-ordination.”

There you go.

Snoop may say he is giving up the smoke, but what he is actually giving up is a far more potent chemical: the trust that we all inherently hold in him to be telling us the truth at all times.

Is this trust worth giving up just to sell us a new Doggfather weed vaporiser?

After all, if we cannot trust self-proclaimed ‘gangsta rappers’ from the 1990s, then who can we trust?

Enjoy your weekend.

Elsewhere this week, Seven West Media entered the ARN/SCA media wars, snapping up a majority share in ARN, while Optus offered up new explanation for last week’s nationwide outage, and the ARIA Awards are back, but for how long? Listen to all this and more on this week’s Mumbrellacast.



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