Facebook, we have a problem: Tacky Apollo 11 ads are running amok

by | Jul 17, 2019 | Public Relations

As the country gears up to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, hucksters of knock-off T-shirts are celebrating as surely as the rest of the nation. They have been hawking their wares almost virally on Facebook timelines.

And the social media giant doesn’t seem interested in doing anything about it

These companies, with names like Fun Tees, Best Fans Ever, Forever Legends and Good Day, keep turning up around every conceivable pop culture event—in May, it was shirts commemorating Game of Thrones. What many of these ads have in common is the use of photoshopped-in celebrity faces—Buzz Aldrin, Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Kit Harrington among them—holding up the shirts, implying endorsement. And poorly photoshopped at that, as if they’re not even making an effort. Harrington’s hands are disproportionately small; NDT’s don’t even appear to be black.

If you scroll through the comments, they fall into three categories:

  • People fondly recalling the subject or memory the shirt evokes, saying they’d love to get one;
  • People warning others away from an obvious scam, because if they got a shirt at all, it was unlicensed and of poor quality;
  • People poking fun at the laughable photoshopping, and calling the vendor out for misappropriating celebrity likenesses

The latter two categories of responses are wise; the first one is likely a combination of real people and bots engineered to amp up hype for the shirts.

Facebook, we have a problem: Tacky Apollo 11 ads are running amok

By all accounts, however, these shirts are hardly worth the fabric they’re printed on. And while the moon landing isn’t a licensed property in and of itself, there are other red flags cutting across these ads:

  • Some of the Apollo images include the Saturn 1B rocket, which was used in earlier Apollo missions but was supplanted for manned missions by the mighty Saturn V with Apollo 8.
  • Several of the shirts include imagery of Snoopy and Woodstock. These are likely being used without license. And the Peanuts characters are attached to Apollo 10, not the first moon landing—so these shirts are in error, too.
  • A commemorative shirt for the 42th anniversary of Star Warsactually included “42th” instead of 42nd. And since when do companies mark the 42nd anniversary of anything?

Despite these license infringements and use of fake celebrity endorsers (who really thinks Harrison Ford would hold up a Star Wars shirt??), the ads are not abating. Indeed, they seem to be picking up momentum, left completely unchecked by the platform.

Facebook, we have a problem: Tacky Apollo 11 ads are running amok

Facebook might not have the manpower to call out every ad for an inferior or infringing product, but surely it has the technology

And when 50 percent of commenters are using the word “scam,” surely an algorithm should pick up on those and set in motion a reevaluation of the advertiser and the product. None of that seems to be happening.

I can’t be the only one who’s become fatigued by these ads while scrolling through my timeline. They are on the precipice of ruining the Facebook experience altogether. And even choosing to hide a particular ad as being redundant or irrelevant will do little to prevent other similarly named vendors with similar products from flying past days later.

When those products are infringing on copyrights, or are misappropriating celebrity images, it’s incumbent on Facebook to crack down on them

When members get burned purchasing from these shady advertisers, it’s a business imperative that Facebook acts. Once members start to fear buying from any company that’s not familiar on the site, the company will see dire consequences down the road. For now, one gets the impression that much like during the 2016 presidential election, Facebook is just happy to take in the ad dollars without doing any vetting of where those dollars are coming from.

The company’s billions of users, along with Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and the memory of Neil Armstrong, deserve better than this.

Gary Frisch
Gary Frisch is founder and president of Swordfish Communications, a full-service public relations agency in Laurel Springs, N.J. He is also the author of “Strike Four,” a novel about minor league baseball. Visit Swordfish online atwww.swordfishcomm.com.


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