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Influencer Marketing In The Watch Industry Has Gone Too Far

Influencer Marketing In The Watch Industry Has Gone Too Far Featured Articles

No one likes a cheater. Cheating isn’t just about ignoring rules and fairness; it’s also about trying to win without merit. In other words, cheaters haven’t earned what they got. I don’t know about you, but I value earned success. So why all the talk about cheating? Because that is what is happening right here in the watch industry space in the form of influencer marketing. Rather than earn the acceptance and acknowledgement of consumers, a growing number of watch brands are trying to buy it through deceptive means by purchasing the opinion of others. That’s cheating, and it is getting so prevalent in watch industry marketing, it’s time to finally start calling it out. Here are five key identifiers of deceptive influencer marketing, along with ways the watch community can fight back. I also discussed the topic of black hat marketing and consumer resentment in the watch space for a different audience on Forbes here.

Influencer Marketing In The Watch Industry Has Gone Too Far Featured Articles

Problem: Influencers Are Just People With Opinions, So Why Aren’t Those Opinions Authentic?

Influencer marketing is the practice of organically reaching an influential personality’s followers with some form of targeted advertising message. As a marketing concept, it’s a sound practice that’s been working for generations. While the modern definition of an “influencer” is some solo person posting pictures on Instagram, an influencer is really anyone with an opinion. This broader definition pretty much covers all of us, as the Internet, and especially social media networks, gives people with an opinion a platform to reach others. When opinionated people have a captive audience, and that audience trusts them, it means they can market the conversation they have with their followers. This can be done ethically, or not — and in some cases, influencer marketing violates the law. In the watch industry, influencers take a variety of forms, including print magazines and online media publications, as well as individuals who share content with an audience on social media platforms.

As one such media personality, I have an opinion on watches, and I use the Internet to share my opinion with others. I’m fortunate enough to have a particular perspective and level of education that gives my opinions and insight value to others. I’ve made a business producing a digital magazine in which my opinions, and those of other aBlogtoWatch team members, are complemented by corollary advertising content that sits alongside our opinions. Our opinions are not the marketing — and we make that crystal clear. In my estimation, that’s the honest way of making a living as an influencer, and we have a lot of policies at aBlogtoWatch designed to protect our opinions from crossing over into marketing. But more on that later. This discussion is about what I call “black hat marketing.” In this context, that is the practice of subversively injecting a marketing message into a statement (or piece of content) that is designed to look like an opinion. That’s lying, its cheating, and it’s behavior that you, as a consumer, need to both watch out for and actively avoid. In general, I consider all manipulative, dishonest, flat-out illegal, and general cheating marketing to be black hat marketing. The Federal Trade Commission has specific laws about influencers being required to disclose relationships with brands, and the Federal Communication Commission has similar rules. Enforcement for these agencies is an issue, but the laws and disallowed behavior are clear.

Influencer Marketing In The Watch Industry Has Gone Too Far Featured Articles

Problem: Influencer Marketing is Irresistible to Watch Brands

As is the case much of the time, the watch industry media didn’t invent influencer marketing, but it has adopted it in the contemporary era. I believe a brief discussion of how influencer marketing is manifested in the watch industry, as well as why it is so prevalent, is merited as part of making my larger point. The watch industry once had a very healthy relationship with marketing and advertising, overall. Companies that felt confident about the strengths of their brand and products would produce compelling messaging campaigns that directly spoke to consumers. These companies didn’t just proudly put their names on their products, they also signed off on their marketing messages. Time and effort was spent to determine what a relevant and engaging message was to a consumer — who, in turn, was keen to be spoken to by brands that had them in mind.

More recently, the watch industry has had a more fractured relationship with advertising, perhaps, in large part, due to the fact that as a luxury industry (as opposed to a consumer goods industry), new types of people were running the brands. The luxury industry has, for generations, also held the belief that its customers come to them, and that the brands don’t necessarily go to the consumer. It’s often a silly approach, but it is a predominant sentiment, especially among higher-end brands concerned that advertising to their core demographic will make them appear weak or desperate. I’ve never seen any evidence to suggest there is merit to this argument.

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At the same time, as the above cultural shift in watch brand marketing is going on, social media marketing and participation, overall, has become an important way to reach consumers — at least some of them. Watch brands are mostly followers and rarely innovators, and they are often attracted to “get-rich-quick” schemes. For them, the promise of being able to reach consumers quickly and directly, minus the difficulty of having to design marketing materials or produce anything, is mostly likely what prompted interest in influencer marketing to begin with. This is an industry, after all, that over the last decade has heavily relied on celebrity ambassadors to generate brand awareness for new customers — as opposed to crafting carefully designed advertising messages to appeal to them.

One of the biggest needs the watch industry has right now are fresh eyes, and some of these people new to the watch industry can be turned into potential customers. Influencer marketing took root as a means for watch brands to reach audiences who were not traditionally into watches. Economically speaking, that makes sense. If you can spend money on a handful of social media influencers to reach a new population of people who aren’t into watches, it could prove a good investment. The only problem is that the brands relied on the influencers to craft the message, and the brand’s participation was intended to be more discreet. This goes along with the current unregulated “Wild West” trend of social media and what pushed some watch brand managers into the world of black hat marketing. No, the fact that “everyone is doing it” does not immediately make it okay.

Influencer Marketing In The Watch Industry Has Gone Too Far Featured Articles

Problem: How Industry Insecurity Breeds Arrogance

When watch brand marketing departments worked with influencers, as compared with traditional watch media, they noticed something interesting. Influencers not only didn’t know much about their brands, they also didn’t care. Their only interest was in producing “attractive” content that their audiences would want to engage with. In fact, too much substance was a bad thing. Watch brand marketers could dictate their exact desires and requests — which were fulfilled merely by paying a fee. In other words, if they wanted for-hire influencers to say positive things about their products, all they needed to do was fork over the asking price. Traditional media actually needed to be convinced of the merits of a product or service in order to give it opinionated editorial coverage. With a penchant for wanting complete control over the message, some watch brand managers simply could not resist the appeal of bypassing media in favor of influencers.

This approach is arrogant and fueled by insecurity. The arrogance comes in the form of the belief that consumers will buy into a message without independent validation — the end result of a lack of confidence that influencers or other media will not like their products on the merits, alone.

It is also arrogant to state that you have an active marketing department when all your efforts are intended to purchase opinions, as opposed to earning them. That’s not real marketing, it’s cheating. It also doesn’t have any momentum; it lasts only as long as you pay for opinions.

How is this manifested in the watch industry today? How is black hat marketing used to reach and persuade consumers, and why (other than the obvious ethical considerations) is it so damaging to the industry? Also, who is really to blame? Is it the hired-gun influencers or is it the short-sighted marketing managers who cannot envision how such practices not only cheapen a brand’s appeal, but also damage the way consumers perceive the entire wrist watch product category? I believe it is mostly the latter. There will always be opinions for sale as long as there is money to buy them. Marketing rules need to change at some point in order to make such conduct frowned upon or downright unlawful. On a simple level, black hat marketing, which purchases opinion without transparency, is advertising fraud.

Anyone who has spent even a few hours on social media reading and viewing videos about watches has seen content that appears to be authentic or unbiased and clearly looks as though it has an agenda behind it. At best it can be painfully difficult to determine what is and isn’t a paid opinion. Consumer skepticism is at an all-time-high because consumers can’t readily determine the difference between honest and paid opinions. The result is that consumers, by default, mistrust everything. On a regular basis, content published by aBlogtoWatch that couldn’t be further from marketing material receives snarky comments that it is “paid” for “advertising.” I was at first vexed by such sentiments, until I began to realize how uncommon watch media with traditional rules that separate advertising from editorial actually are. In a sense, I don’t blame consumers for being so cautious, given the sheer volume of bullshit they are exposed to on a daily basis. People who regularly view social media content are increasingly experiencing what I call misinformation fatigue.

Influencer Marketing In The Watch Industry Has Gone Too Far Featured Articles

Problem: Blurred Lines Between Opinion & Advertising

The reason I know that luxury watch brands routinely purchase influencer opinions (aside from actively seeing it) is because aBlogtoWatch is regularly asked to do so. In fact there are certain brands that I am proud to say will not work with aBlogtoWatch as an advertiser because we refuse to simply take money to write positive reviews about them which aren’t labeled as ads. I spend more time than I’d like to admit explaining to watch brands why taking money from them to deceptively market their message to our audience is bad idea for everyone involved. Those who don’t appreciate the merits of this argument simply do not deserve to work with us.

I’ll tell you exactly how we work with watch brand advertisers. First, we make sure that the brand and message they want to push has actual value, as well as appeals to a segment of the aBlogtowatch audience. We cover a range of products at various price levels, so understandably, not all products we cover will appeal to all audience members. The same rule naturally applies to advertising messages. aBlogtoWatch also engages in agency-style work in for which we product marketing and advertising materials for brands. Some of that is proudly displayed as the advertising that appears on aBlogtoWatch. We always strive to produce a message that communicates a strong and authentic statement about the brand or product being advertised. All of this is contained in the marketing content we make, and it has no relationship to the editorial we produce.

If you see editorial content on aBlogtoWatch about a brand that is also an advertiser, that’s because we don’t accept advertisers whose products we would not otherwise write about. Brands work with us because we explain to them that it isn’t our job to push their brand. It is our job to critically discuss products we are interested in, and it is their job to communicate their values and benefits to consumers. That’s the only way we work, and again, I’m proud to say “no” to anyone who doesn’t respect the rules of ethical advertising.

Influencer Marketing In The Watch Industry Has Gone Too Far Featured Articles

Problem: When Emotion Overtakes Evidence

As discussed above, there’s simply no reliable means of looking at a post on social media or an article on a website and determining if the author truly feels the way they do or is paid to say so. And sadly, there probably never will be. That’s why you should consider opinion on its own entirely irrelevant for the purposes of evaluating a product. That’s a tough stance for a lot of “busy” consumers to take, but it’s the only way to bullshit-proof your consumer choices.

I have an education in law, and as such strongly believe in the power of evidence. If you can’t demonstrate to me why something is cool and can only tell me that it is cool, I will not take your word at face value. Even if I trust you, I can’t be sure you even know what you’re talking about. Evidence-based argumentation is the only viable way of being sure of anything. When I review watches, I try to mix opinion with an explanation of why I feel the way I do. It doesn’t matter to me whether or not you agree wit me, so long as you understand why I feel the way I do about one particular product or another.

What comes with the influencer marketing epidemic is a simple lack of substance in what’s being shared. We’ve all seen it, content that is thin or entirely absent of substance, but rich with opinion and emotion. If you see that, just totally ignore it. If you don’t, you’re a sucker. Sorry to say it, but as a consumer, if you follow trends, people, or products merely because they appear popular and not because of anything else — I’d wager you aren’t making good consumer decisions very often.

If you as a consumer find timepieces as a category too complex to understand and need to rely on an influencer to make decision for you – then you have no business buying a high-end watch. Buy what you understand and are ready for. Don’t buy something just because you feel like it is a hot item. That’s the fastest way to feeling like a chump, or at the least being humiliated into spending far too much money for something you don’t understand. Best case scenario is that you don’t get ripped off.

Undoubtedly, in my fight against lazy consumer behavior, only a fraction of total consumers out there will listen to me, which is fine, because the educated consumers will agree with me. I’m particularly galvanized about this topic, because I believe influencer marketing has made serious damage to the industry I call home. Watch brands taking unwise and unethical shortcuts have rapidly faced increased consumer backlash. Moreso, I firmly believe that watch marketers who have no qualms about boldly lying to consumers (while working with influencers who have no qualms about boldly lying to consumers) are ruining it for ethical brands who do not participate in that behavior.

Think about it, someone just discovering watches will sooner than later find some type of paid opinion marketing that isn’t cleverly deceptive enough to hide its true nature. That will not only sully their opinion of the brand name (usually proud historic houses whose accolades vastly extend past current managers), but will also cause them to distrust information about other genuinely honest brands. This is exactly what has happened now as evidenced by the sheer level of skepticism consumers have when viewing most all media. It also makes quality watch brands fearful of marketing at all – held back by the worry that if they actively market and start to get more positive sentiment and attention – consumers will think honest opinions are paid ones.

I know for a fact that this is happening because I speak with numerous marketing managers who approach conversations about advertising with initial hesitation. Some even feel that if they have otherwise quality advertising in the same vicinity as editorial – readers will suspect the editorial of being sponsored. This effects quality watch media, consumers, and brands alike. Even just a small number of brands who welcome deceptive marketing practices and their ensuring hired-gun influencers can have a devastating effect on other companies who wish to market the honest and effective way.

As a consumer you have a right to not trust anyone but yourself. Do yourself a favor and educate yourself as much as possible on a product category (like watches) so that you can make you own individual opinion on those watches. Use quality, unbiased media like aBlogtoWatch to gather evidence that supports the opinions your own tastes and experience will naturally lead you to. And never (ever) let anyone make you feel like you need to purchase a watch because they say it is cool, an investment, a collector’s item, or anything aside from a thoughtful argument related to merit supported by evidence.

Influencer Marketing In The Watch Industry Has Gone Too Far Featured Articles

The First Step: Shame Insecure Followers & Celebrate Confident Consumers

The influencer problem obviously can’t be solved overnight, but I’ll conclude by taking the first step: shaming some people. Probably not as deeply as I should. I’m going to make a distinction between the two types of watch consumers out there. I’ve discussed this dynamic before – principally in articles such as “Are You Being Influenced As A Watch Consumer?” This discussion is relevant because it explains why so many people are interested in being influenced and why to a degree deceptive watch marketing works. Influencer marketing primarily works on insecure consumers. These are people who want to appear as though they are educated watch enthusiasts when in fact they lack sufficient knowledge to make up their own minds about what watches to buy, and are thus easy prey for black hat marketing techniques designed to make them feel even more insecure about what they don’t have. It’s particularly sad, because these people might have begun their journey seeking out watch media for honest advice on how to choose a watch, and were ultimately left feeling even more insecure after discovering a great number of biased reviews touting purportedly “must-have” watches.

Some of these watches are anything but “must-have,” and are often priced to yield unethical profits, destined for the wrists of anyone but actual watch-lovers. My personal rule is that, if a lot of people are hyping a watch, thereby creating a surge in popularity, I just walk the other way. There are a number of great watches out there, with staggering volumes of availability. If a watch you love isn’t available, then you can easily look elsewhere for something else. Never pine over something that just wants your money — especially if it’s only because you can’t immediately have it. Watches that appeal to this “you can’t have it” attitude are marketing directly to your insecurity. Don’t be an insecure consumer. Be a confident one.

Confident consumers buy what they like. They do what they like. We’ve all met them, and most of us respect them. Confident consumers are also influencers — and they are the people you can get inspiration from by seeing how they don’t follow trends or copy the wish lists of others. If you come across someone like this who appears to be in bed with a brand, just look the other way. Or at the least take what they say with a grain of salt.

Influencer Marketing In The Watch Industry Has Gone Too Far Featured Articles

Looking to the Future: The Recipe For A Healthy Watch Collector

Remember that I wrote how watches make the best trophies to demonstrate something distinctive about your personality? This means they should represent your personality, alone, and not anyone else’s. When I see someone entering a room with a watch they hope other people will notice because it is supposed to be popular, I just feel bad for the person. That guy isn’t interested in what is on his wrist, he’s interested in getting approval from peers. That’s not a watch-lover or a collector. That’s just a guy who needs a friend.

Managers in the watch industry need to curtail their current infatuation with deceptive influencer marketing to these insecure personality types, because it is quickly alienating many passionate fans, while hurting their colleagues’ brands. If the only way you can sell your products is by buying opinions and lying about it at the same time, then you don’t deserve consumer dollars. If you want credible influencers to promote your products, then you’d better earn their respect though evidence and examples. I consider myself one of those gatekeepers, and I say to watch brands, “If you want to convince aBlogtoWatch’s audience to like your products, then you need to convince me first.”

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  • bc_from_aus

    Interesting article. Would liked to have seen some specific examples of where you’ve seen this happen.

    • Boris N. Natasha

      This is just a stream of concious leaving the reader wondering who, what, when, how — if you are going to claim influence state facts and examples.

      • Ariel Adams

        There are far too many examples of this behavior out there for any one article to digest it. I don’t think that calling out past examples does much to help the problem in the future. I’m not trying to attack any one entity or brand. I’m really calling for consumers to understand that despite the popularity of conduct it is both unethical and in many instances illegal. Brands will get away with as much as they can these days to see short-term success with the lowest possible investments. Do you feel that watch brands have invested enough to properly reach you as a consumer? I’d be willing to bet that the answer is “no,” they haven’t done enough. As a watch consumer you are entitled to them spending their marketing dollars trying to target you, as opposed to a susceptible mainstream audience that is years away from understanding and really appreciating the wrist watch product universe.

    • Ariel Adams

      It would take a research team to come up with sufficient evidence given that it would involve combing through years of social media posts, etc… Bottom line is that this behavior is happening and as opposed to randomly calling out a few bad actors, my aim is to attack the practice, not the participants. We know that if a brand offers money for opinion there WILL be someone out there willing to take it. We’d rather motivate those brands to choose how they spend their marketing dollars in more honorable, sustainable means.

      • Tony NW

        Bad answer, Ariel. That’s like the far left saying, “Cause Du Jour is so common I can’t narrow it down to one example!” If you can’t given three examples, it’s not a problem.

        Pics, or it didn’t happen.

        • Rob Crenshaw

          You haven’t spent enough time on IG or YT.
          You don’t have to cite examples, it’s everywhere.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    I can’t answer your very interesting insight to the industry on one finger (get lappy on Wed) I will back track then.
    Can you name and shame without fear of litigation?( I can guess who some of the culprits are)
    I would like to think I could smell BS from a mile off but deception is kinda part of the game of selling wither it be watches or shampoo.
    I trust ABTW implicitly.

    • Sheez Gagoo

      Watch Anish!

      • Spangles

        Anish has been accused of purchasing much of his online following. In other words, he is accused of grossly padding the number of followers to make himself seem more influential.

      • Raymond Wilkie

        Why do some folks have private profiles. It’s only watch bit after all.

        • John Effing Zoidberg

          To dissuade trolls. It used to be more of a problem.

      • Raymond Wilkie

        I tried Anish it’s more a lifestyle blog. Didn’t like it at all. And yes it had a a hint of BS about it.

  • SuperStrapper

    I really like the concept of this article, but overall it was frustrating. You started by saying it’s time to call some of these people out, go on to say the first step is to shame offenders, and by the end of the article you’ve identified nothing specifically. You’ve obviously identified a problem and have insight into some of the common denominators, but this article reads like a tease. I know who’s guilty and it’s time they were called out. Well… ok?
    And you made specific mention that “…readers will suspect an editorial of being sponsored.” Well at least twice a week a hands on or similar article here will get some mouthbreather commenting “wow advertorial much? What were you paid to write this?” Or something similar. The blog vets every comment posted here and no only do you post those comments, you dont come in to challenge them. Bizarre. There is absolutely an element on the internet, especially these days, that if someone disagrees with you, you’re wrong. Its petty and childish and frankly really fucking stupid but the world encourages it because big noteworthy organizations and people do it all the time. Celebrities call for violence against children and get cheered, corporations unjustly smear their competitors and stock prices rise. So if the net punishment for being that gross is benefit, then why would anyone stop?
    Maybe I’m starting to paint with strokes too broad here, but I really thought this was going to be an important expose of some kind and I feel like you’re dancing around something you really want to say and just aren’t saying it. If some one or some entity is actually known to be deceptive, then shed an actual light and wield the power of numbers. That’s not to suggest a mob mentality, but the more people that know, the more difficult it becomes for the unscrupulous to operate.

    • Raymond Wilkie

      What he said.

    • Independent_George

      I get the frustration. A lot of people here know at least one specific, egregious influencer. Is it a coincidence that a certain Anglo-Saxon YouTube Personality hasn’t posted a video in a month, and that this article came up? Actually, it maybe it is, ’cause the word is that said Personality allegedly cribbed from an popular Instagram photographer and a strike was levied. A ninety day time out. But said Personality’s last posted video also hyped as the best watch under $1000 a timepiece from a brand that ABTW won’t cover, let alone mention in passing.

      Anyway, “exposing” certain influencers carries a risk to ABTW in general and the editors personally. The Personality’s fanboys and Facebook followers are cut from the same cloth as the average 4Chan troll, so does ABTW really want to get into a p’ing match with them? The Personality has little or nothing to lose, and ABTW has much, much more. The minute ABTW clicks the publish button and calls out influencers is the exact same minute ABTW loses, because they are playing on the influencers’ home court under rules in rigged in the influencers’ favor. It’s asymmetrical warfare and I doubt ABTW wants to get drawn in. ABTW has employees, suppliers and clients to consider. Influencers and their trolls simply brush off the dust, regroup and march off in search of the next social media fatwa.

      I suspect this was article was inspired by the Code 11.59 debacle and the resulting fallout, and maybe ABTW is hearing from suddenly skittish brands. So I read this article as being directed as much to the brands as to us, and as a subtle plea to ABTW’s heavily-funded and well-connected colleague/competitor to thread lightly.

  • I agree its getting out of hand and social media and made the general problem worse. But its all shades of gray. An “ambassador” paid to wear a watch in a print magazine is really the same attempt to influence a potential buyer. The format gives it away as sponsored by the watch brand but the principle is the same. I’ve had lots of “influencers” approach me promising to say good things (without any real knowledge of me or my watches) in exchange for money or a free watch. Most are lame dudes when it comes to watches and many have a small or not watch focused “following”. So its mostly greedy people on social media trying to make a buck or score free product.

    The situation which I suspect prompted this article is more evil – brands approaching fake “opinion makers” as opposed to the other way around. The relationship between watch brands and media is historically corrupt more often than not. Sad, but it does breed wary consumers. The social media phenomenon has made newbies easier to fool (which is really a crime), but cynical watch buyers have been exposed to the bullshit for so long they are probably immune to social media posers.

    Ever notice the certain watch print magazines seem to cover certain brands/groups a lot more than others? And that is corresponds to the number of full page ads in the same issue? Or how about watch blogs which are so in bed with certain brands?

    On another note – when I want to buy some thing (on Amazon for example), I don’t read the 5 star reviews. I read the 1 star reviews to see what is wrong with a product. It’s easy enough to filter out the hater reviews so what you are left with is the honest reporting of the imperfections of a product. Then you can decide of those warts bother you or not.

    • Tempvs Mortvvs

      The watch industry is full of BS, just like almost everything else in this world. Notice i wrote ‘almost,’ not ‘all.’ And like you said, I’ve been buying watches for so long, that i don’t care about ads, ambassadors or reviews. I know it’s all BS. I just see and evaluate the watch by myself, and decide whether i buy it or not. It’s so simple.

    • “An “ambassador” paid to wear a watch in a print magazine is really the same attempt to influence a potential buyer.” Dead on. And I would also venture a guess that many athletes who grew up in humble surroundings never owned a good mechanical watch prior to some company strapping it on their wrist. Most were certainly not avid, knowledgeable watch collectors.

    • Rob Crenshaw

      There’s a very easy (personal) fix: don’t watch or use any media, and evaluate products based on what’s important to you. Why does anybody even want a Rolex other than a history of influencers and general conspicuous consumption? A $12 Casio will serve the same purpose, and you can buy a lifetime’s supply for $100.

      • That’s what I said (with 1 star reviews) – evaluate what is important to you personally based on evidence you trust to be honest. I don’t want a Rolex (even though they are fine watches) and I’ve had plenty of Casio calculator watches in decades gone by. A Casio no longer “does it” for me. But YMMV.

        When I said the whole issue stinks I meant the social media and advertising corruption. I have no problem wading though the BS but its still a sad situation Cheers.

  • DaveLemi

    Lots of hand-wringing without calling anyone out. My takeaway is companies that advertise on ablogtowatch are “the good guys” and have been vetted. I’m not a marketer so I’m not sure what that technique is called, but I’m sure it’s very effective.

    • Ariel Adams

      It is true that we must vet advertisers carefully. I’d say that no serious marketing campaigns on aBlogtoWatch go up without making sure that a good percentage of our audience would be a good fit for the products. Often times that means vetting products or at least a brand in advance.

  • James Honour

    Could these arguments be extended to celebrity watch brand ambassadors? How many genuinely believe in the brand represented? Would pricing be more realistic and value improved if their costs was not born by the end consumer? The proliferation of micro brands and independent innovative makers suggests a ready market for new product – imagine how sales would be enhanced without the celebrity media saturation from the usual suspects. The watch industry has become complacent in recent years , especially the main Swiss makes. Could the trend towards vending watches direct from makers to consumers break the need for both celebrity ambassadors and influencers?

  • Agnar Sidhu

    Thank you for a good article Ariel! I can feel you frustration from reading thru it, and agree 100%!

    Take everything you read with a pince of salt is a saying we have in Norway?

  • Ron-W

    What comes to mind is the BS marketing of not owning a wacht but storing it for next generation so it will be worth more. Is that what you are hinting at ? Would be helpful if you could give some specific examples. I seriously can not imagine buying a watch because a Backham or Cloon promotes it. Used and/or Vintage is the best recipe to cure this problem, you immediately have a 30 -60% discount on RRP. Thanks for another great insight, youre welcome !

  • BNABOD

    Needs more meat aka more names but hell we have a good idea who they are but that is because a bunch of us have been collecting/hoarding for a while BUT for newbies they won’t have a clue and that is the audience that should be given a hint.

    “My personal rule is that, if a lot of people are hyping a watch, thereby creating a surge in popularity, I just walk the other way. There are a number of great watches out there, with staggering volumes of availability. If a watch you love isn’t available, then you can easily look elsewhere for something else. Never pine over something that just wants your money — especially if it’s only because you can’t immediately have it.”
    A lot of good in that statement because it is driven by an emotional response rather than a rational one . Being put on an imaginary list waiting years for a watch after a 100% deposit is nuts . That should never happen and only encourages the hype . Like you say there is plenty out there to satisfy customers BUT the issue is also price . Price that is so out there where the product will lose 80% of its value in two years is what pushes customers towards that brand that starts w R ends w X even though there are equally good brands…. assuming they were priced accordingly.

    • Ariel Adams

      The goal of this article was to stimulate discussions among watch buyers, retailers, and brands related to integrity in watch marketing. Until this topic is discussed it simply remains on the sidelines as “probably bad behavior that more than one entity gets away with but that people tolerate.” I’m not here to isolate one one wrong doer from another, but rather to discuss a poor industry practice which needs to end beginning with brands deciding that they don’t want to buy opinion, but rather earn it.

    • AndrewF

      “Needs more meat aka more names ” – that’s exactly what I was thinking. As the saying goes, “this thread is worthless without pictures” – or in this case, “this article is worthless without concrete examples”. Well, not worthless – don’t get me wrong – but less convincing. If you think someone is doing the wrong thing, you should not be afraid to name them. “some people”, “some brands” – this just sounds evasive.

  • Tony NW

    This isn’t just a problem with watches. It does, however, seem strongly tied to social media… the world of professional celebrity influencers with no actual credentials. Especially Instagram influencers, whose output tends to be visual, with no text context.

    But it probably also isn’t a problem to most of your audience. The demographic able to drop $10K on a Rolex is not the same demographic fawning over every tweet coming in. And, sad to say, Kim Kardashian’s Hollywood dress up game on mobile phones was one of the most successful games of the last several years. The problem isn’t that these markets don’t exist, but that we don’t fully grasp them and we consider them demeaning to the luxury houses. But… perhaps they aren’t? We don’t think like Millenials and GenZ’s, etc.

    It’s a disingenuous complaint anyhow… what does any Hollywood celebrity actually know about science and “global warming”, or economics? You may, possibly, respect Phil Mickleson for Rolex because the expense association, or Michael Phelps for Omega (although he doesn’t wear them while traning) or Kate Winslet for Longines (although that seems suspiciously close to selling an image, but it is about the image), but why should we care the Kobe Bryant wears Hublot? And what does Cristiano Ronaldo, famous for soccer playing, have to do with auto racing viz a viz TAG Heuer’s Formula 1? What separates him from Cara Delevingne, who they also used, but is the epitome of an “influencer”?

    The first Rolex Brand Ambassador was reportedly Mercedes Gleitze, who swam the channel wearing a Rolex. That made sense. But all those ads of Sean Connery wearing Rolex watches, based on his performance as (fictitious) James Bond? Where are you drawing the line?

  • Max Attack

    IDK, I never have understood why anyone follows celebrities, or cares what they think. So this has zero impact on me. I really get a life people

    • Ariel Adams

      I’m like you, but then again I see the effect it has on many mainstream consumers. Celebrity ambassadors essentially do two things. First, in public advertising known popular faces attract people’s attention and then those same audiences see what messages are around the known face. So if there is an unknown or less known brand next to a very known brand (celebrity), the less well-known brand will get attention and extra credibility by being associated with the more well-known brand.

      Second, there are a lot of consumers who simply aren’t good at evaluating products from afar. Or too lazy. They rely on validating from trusted sources. Many people really do trust celebrities they like and if a celebrity endorses a product, the consumer genuinely feels that it is worth their time and interest as well. This again is not typical of highly sophisticated consumers – but no one claims that most consumers are highly sophisticated….

  • gjd83

    People want to consume “independent” media, but they’re unwilling to pay for it. That often leads to confusion for the reasons Ariel stated.

    • Ariel Adams

      This is indeed a larger issue and related to the economics of media. It always goes back to the economics. Right now people choose free content for two reasons. First is that free content is widely available and there are no ready means to distinguish the different value of paid versus free media content. Perhaps there is in niche areas like financial news and other well-developed verticals, but if you are just an average person looking for a wrist watch review, how would you know that paying $3 to read article A is better than the free content available in article B. We also exist in a global economic recession that has many (not all) consumers loathe to pay for more. If anything people are looking to cut monthly expenses – not increase them. Given the massive volume of online media that could be potentially purchases – I find it difficult to believe that in this economy most consumers would be willing to spend tens if not hundreds of dollars a month on getting media – even if it is much more obviously created with their interests in mind.

      Another missing piece of the puzzle to get consumers to pay for content is a universal payment system that allows for micro transactions. Sure that works on iTunes or some other closed-wall platforms, but right now only larger media publications like Financial Times or Wall Street Journal can afford to have pay-walls which allow consumers to view some content and not others. Those pay walls also don’t allow for micro-transactions of say a few cents to read a single article as opposed to getting people to sign up for a subscription. Until you can go out there and pay $0.05 – 0.25 for a single piece of content – the model will skill skew toward free content distribution being supported by advertising (however media can get it).

      • gjd83

        Very well put. I think I would pay for watch-articles on the larger sites. The ones that have contributors whose articles I enjoyed in the past. The quality rarely lies in the watch reviews though – even if they are probably the most-read posts. It lies in articles like this or pieces of watch journalism that transcend the mere product. These are only to be found on the “large” blogs like yours. The rest is just the buzz generated by single watch releases: Lots of unboxing-videos, instagram-posts or flat “reviews” that mostly bear the message that a watch is “great” or “not so great”. Why would anyone pay money for that?

  • Jerry Davis

    So hard to believe that “Social Media Influencer” is actually a thing someone aspires to be.

    • Rob Crenshaw

      The top influencers are making $5-10M+ per year. That’s a huge sum of money for doing not much more than strolling around with a camera and braying about your ego. I believe many many people would aspire to have this life position.

    • What fresh hell is this?

      Beggars with an audience.

  • DanW94

    Ariel, I think you do a fine job avoiding any hint of impropriety in terms of collusion with your advertisers but ABTW is still not a true independent reviewer ala Consumer Reports in the fact that you review watches from the same companies you accept advertising dollars from. Unless that relationship is totally severed there’ll always be an underlying current of biased writing and a conflict of interest. That being said, there’s also an element of caveat emptor involved here. By the time you reach adulthood or early adulthood you should understand how marketing works and know that that advertisers, companies and the “influencers” they use are less than sincere and genuine in their claims. Like many things in life you have a choice, either do some additional research to verify the validity of their claims or accept it at face value.

    • Tempvs Mortvvs

      Indeed. Well expressed.

      • DanW94

        Thanks…

    • Independent_George

      The Consumer Reports comparison is understandable, but also a little unfair. CR is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and exists solely because of the social welfare policies implicit within the United States Tax Code. As such, they are more “independent” in that they don’t rely on advertising from the OEMs of the goods they review, but they are also run by human beings and as such are far from being unbiased. They have been criticized change their editorial policies and been sued enough over the past 40 years to show that yes, even CR has biases, and damaging ones at that.

      Fun fact: As a 501(c)(3) corp, there are certain ways CR must structure the editorial department and produce their content in order to stay in compliance with Internal Revenue Service rules. In plain English? In order to maintain status as a 501(c)(3) org and reap the tax benefits thereof, CR has to structure and word their reviews in a certain ways in order to stay within the good graces of the IRS and/or Congress. So the United States Federal Government, albeit subtly and lightly, does act as an editor and censor of Consumer Reports.

    • Ariel Adams

      Dan, thanks for your comment. We’ve always tried to make it clear that we are not entirely neutral, but that rather we are fair. Myself and the rest of the aBlogtoWatch team have our own opinions about products we like and don’t. aBlogtoWatch has no issue expressing its team’s opinions but also explaining the source of those opinions and making it clear as much as possible when there is a difference between taste and more objective statements.

      • SPQR

        Being “not entirely neutral” is mutually incompatible with being “fair”. As a lawyer I could never agree to try a case before a juror or tribunal expressing such a position. The juror or tribunal holding such a position could not render a fair verdict. It would lead to injustice. This is because if you are “not entirely neutral” you are biased and by definition unfair. Admittedly Ablogtowatch is not a decision making tribunal but it does review watches with a view to rendering a conclusion about the objective merits of the watch. It is really best to admit the bias so that your readers can assess for themselves how “fair” you are being.

  • Jared

    Without specifics, it’s hard to really comment at all… I hate to opine when I’m not really sure if I’ve grasped the precise criteria for being an offender when celebrity endorsements run amok and may be the biggest factor in cementing the legacy of many watch brands (I’m looking at you 007).

    I see the perspective of the consumer, not media companies, as more relevant here. The real drivers of the watch industry aren’t blogs or even watch manufacturers, and certainly not their marketing departments; at base it’s the consumer. How to get the target demo to buy your product? If you fail at this, you lose. How they go about this may work or may cause the brand harm. If a brand is diluted or their sincerity is lost, who’s harmed most? Obviously, the brand is. But then let’s be real, all marketing is tinged with half truths, romanticisms and otherwise spun to the edge of credulity… too far and you lose credibility, too little and you’re ignored.

    Only when you look at this through the lens of a blog that is also an advertiser do you start to see how this can be a problem… for some watch industry media companies, but not really that big of a deal for consumers. This is not to say I don’t appreciate those that do strive to bring a higher level of ethics to bear; I do agree with and appreciate how you operate. But still, buyer beware, we have to be able to discern credible, sincere actors from the rest because we will never operate in a fully sanitized environment free of risk, in the watch realm… in any realm.

  • “Way back” in early 2015, when we had a retail watch and jewelry store in Austin, Texas; a nice guy named Mark Carson contacted me about providing material for a series he produced for an outfit named aBlogtoWatch. In this instance, the article was to be titled “Buying Watches in Austin, Texas:….”

    It was a fun exercise that got us noticed. Not sure we had any sales that I could call a direct conversion from the article. But it did help the brand.

    As time went by, we invested tens of thousands of dollars in various forms of marketing and advertising. Print didn’t work. Billboards didn’t work. Extravagant galas at the store didn’t work.

    In 2015 I also became involved (read hired as a consultant) with an Instagram personality, with a rather large following, who specialized in watch posts. He was also personally an avid watch collector. This campaign (which lasted for over a year) was the only single campaign we did across three years that generated direct conversions. (Read sales.) The campaign appealed to at least one demographic we could service. In this case younger tech and engineering guys who were searching for their first mechanical watch. We happened to carry a moderately priced German brand that was in demand with them as a group.

    I thought it was rather ironic that a social media “campaigner” could have so much influence on how people eventually arrived at a purchasing decision. Certainly was radically different than what I was used to after thirty years of watch collecting. So I walked away from the exercise happy that we found something that worked. My responsibility was to invest in marketing and advertising that produced sales; period.

    In hindsight, I think a couple of observations are in order. First; there is a demographic out there that likes the way information is presented in places like Instagram. It’s not my demographic, but that does not matter. Seems that some people want to be influenced, regardless of the source. Secondly, I saw firsthand how such a medium could bring new, first time, watch buyers into the fold. This latter point is (IMHO) extremely important for the watch industry as a whole.

    • Mikita

      “Seems that some people want to be influenced, regardless of the source.”

      True, plague of modern generation. People look for being influenced, and never ever doubt the source.

      • egznyc

        It’s like that Eurythmics song, some of them want to abuse you, some of them want to be abused ….

        • Berndt Norten

          Who am I to disagree?

          • DanW94

            There’s only you and me and egznyc, and we just disagree….

          • You can’t sleep, you can’t eat
            There’s no doubt, you’re in deep
            Your throat is tight, you can’t breathe
            Another like is all you need

  • harry schaffner

    This article is why I read the watch blogs. I really do not care about any individual watch or its newest ‘limited edition’. I enjoy articles about thee watch industry, its relationship to Switzerland and the fact it is a luxury item. Thus I was excited to begin this article, but like several commenters, I was disappointed in it. First I am not sure what an ‘influencer ‘ is. Is this a function of social media, where I do not terry? I like ABTW generally since it clearly states when an article is based on an ‘on the wrist’ experience versus marketing materials and a watch that has yet to be held. By the way, wine magazines, cigar magazines and restaurant reviewers do not write about experience they have not personally had. However bicycle magazines do it all the time for their advertisers.

    Ariel writes that some watches … are priced too high and yield an “unethical profit”. I do not know what an unethical profit is, but I would guess it is a profit being made by someone other than you. Also Ariel discusses a marketing scheme he refers to as promoting ‘can’t have watches’. I assume he means those that are intentionally under supplied to raise interest in them. However no watch or manufacturer is named for earning ‘unethical profits’ or intentionally under supplying the market needs. I understand that Ariel needs to get along in the watch community and taking on enemies is certainly not the way to do that. So this is a get along and do along piece by a guy who teases us but does not tell us what he knows.

    So Ariel name three watches that carry what you think is an ‘unethical profit’ and name three watches that are intentionally under supplied to manipulate demand. Thanks

    • Ariel Adams

      Harry,

      I think you read into the term “unethical profit” too much. I am not referring to margins which are too high. I am simply referring to sales which are earned through manipulation versus honestly offering a consumer what they are looking for. We can talk about sales margins elsewhere.

    • Independent_George

      As for intentionally under supplied: I am going to go with the Royal Oak.

      AP is already pretty aggressive giving rappers and other social media superstars access to hard to obtain Royal Oaks. I might be wrong, and perhaps he is a seasoned collector with an extensive horological background, but I suspect that Offset doesn’t know the difference between a “hair spring” and a “hair trigger”, but he sure does like to rap about his APs and Pateks, and show off watches in Instagram posts.

      I also think this article is a camouflaged shot at AP. Their screwing over long-time loyal retailers, their potentially using the boutique model to self-select who gets to buy a Code 11.59 (which, buy the way, is potentially very illegal and unlike a FTC violation, a possible Civil Rights violation, and could get the attention of not an overworked FTC lawyer but the FBI and an aggressive US Attorney looking for scalps), the beta test with Hodinkee as to how the shape future social media campaigns, AP might be a supervillain in all this.

      I also think that the subsequent pile-on to the Code 11.59 was, in part, driven by competitors, some because they are aware of AP’s long-term strategy and were beta-testing responses, some because it was an opportunity to pile on.

      I’ll also throw in Richard Mille under excessive profit. A few months earlier, Ariel reviewed that million dollar Richard Mille/Sly Stallone mashup monstrosity. Ariel reviewed it in the proper context — basically what a rich collector might think lying around the pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel. This week James Heaton strapped it to his ankle and snowshoe’d among the snowy pines of Aspen. Sure, Aspen is a place where a Richard Mille collector would visit, but I am pretty sure that watch ain’t seeing much action outside of the spa at The Little Nell. I might have been the only person bothered by the article, the Hodinkee fanboys ate it up. Maybe it should be taken at face value — a “whimsical’ if too self-serious review of an absurd watch, or maybe Richard Mille wanted to move the needle and needed to sell some of these and, viola — Hodinkee was there to help.

      I really do not want to be that guy in the comments writing “Nice advertorial” but . . .

      Where does Hodinkee fit into all of this — stooge or co-conspirator? Before Jack Forster’s tone deaf defense of the Code 11.59 rollout, I would have sided with well-meaning stooge. After the tone-deaf video scolding watch enthusiasts and his justifications in the comments, and after James Heaton’s Richard Mille puff-piece, I am going to side with both stooge and co-conspirator.

      • Rob Crenshaw

        I have some insight. I’m a good AP customer, and have bought a few hard-to-get ROs that were offered to me. I am also involved in SM using IG, and this rapper/influencer marketing works. One example: I have a 20yo friend who is so enamored of AP RO that he’s been saving money to buy his first, and he’s almost saved the $20K. I tell him he’s insane for wasting that much money on a watch at his age, and that he should buy a really nice $5K watch and invest the rest. But he’s a 20yo without the bigger picture and patience someone older has, so that AP will make him feel like a big baller at the clubs and with the ladies. What young people will do for sex, insecurity, egotism, and to assert social status for acceptance in an adult world cannot be underestimated.

        As for AP intentionally under supplying watches, well that works too. Demand is high, and as long as they can feed people’s need to assert social dominance thru conspicuous consumption, it will always work. Veblen goods.

      • Dimman

        I don’t think the piling on of the 11:59 hate was ccompetition-driven. I think it was a response from the consumers and community to what was an exceptional display of insincere coverage of the Code. You could tell by responses that the writers really didn’t like it but were pulling some incredible mental gymnastics to put the most positive spin possible on it. But a ton of people saw right through it and countered with deliberately over the top negative criticism.

  • Borderland

    You mean to tell me Gerard Butler doesn’t really like Festina watches?

  • Pete L

    Interesting article. I really don’t think we can get away from the influencer culture now as so many demographics are catered for through different social media channels. Brand ambassadors and product placement have existed for a long time before but I suppose the game has moved on.
    It is sad seeing these ‘famous ‘ watch bloggers on Instagram (we all know who they are) suddenly pushing the merits of some microbrand piece of crap in rotation from their usual gaudy Pepsi Rolex or Nautilus.
    The issue of hype generating demand and exclusivity combined with the peer approval mentality has to be laid at the door of Rolex as the worst culprits – and they are the biggest brand out there.
    I like many brands and have always fancied a Rolex diver but (aside from not wanting to pay premium or wait for years due to hype!) Have never pulled the trigger as the last thing I want is people to think I bought it because it’s cool to others? No problem sharing photos with other like minded watch folk but I genuinely don’t care if my watch isn’t the latest fad. I buy them for me.

  • Ariel Adams

    One can interpret the intentions for this article in a variety of ways. If anything I am upset that marketing dollars are being spent on deceptive practices as opposed to noble ones. Beyond that it isn’t for me to say that a brand should be spending their money in place A or B. I just want to advocate for intelligent decision making that takes into consideration a long-term business and consumer relationship strategy.

    • Tony NW

      Ariel ponitificatedith…

      . If anything I am upset that marketing dollars are being spent on deceptive practices as opposed to noble ones.

      Translated: Drat, they’re spending those marketing dollars on useless celebrities rather than us!
      I’ve been here a long time; I know that’s not what you’re saying. But it sounds like that.

      • Ariel Adams

        Thank you for reminding people what I am trying to say and helping to avoid confusion. It is true that discussions such as this can be interpreted in a variety of ways I might not always be able to predict. Sure I am upset that marketing dollars are spent trying to buy opinion as opposed to content which I think connects better with consumers. I’ve been pleading with watch brand decision makers for the better part of a decade to invest wisely, but often times the incentives aren’t there for them as they are pressured to show short-term gains without caring much about the long-term. That is an entirely other discussion.

  • Ariel Adams

    That comment was a fun read.

    • TheChuphta

      Thank you. Every once and a while I manage to slip a comment through the gatekeepers on their site. What a bunch of preening knobs. Highly entertaining.

  • Ariel Adams

    I’m not sure I follow your logic here. The giveaways are opportunities for the audience to enter to giveaway a watch. We rarely ask people to simply say why they like the watch and we presume that if people are entering for a product – they would actually like it. If you aren’t interested in a giveaway item then it seems logical to skip it. If you’ve been unduly pushed into a liking a product as a function of entering to win one for free, let me know….

  • Spangles

    All of this would seem to apply to AP and RM, considering this article in the context of Ariel’s earlier article on the 11.59.

  • Rob Crenshaw

    ALL advertising is deceptive, and Ariel’s piece seems more idealistic than realistic. Whether selling watches/cars/phones/food/consumer luxury goods, brands engage in all kinds of emotional manipulation. Instead of touting what makes their product special: the silicon hairspring and fine case polishing, the sheer number of muffins produced by clean healthy local affiliate bakeries such that they are delivered freshly to your market, the robotic welding adding strength and occupant safety to a vehicle, we get tennis players, golfers, and rappers

    educating us about haute horology, Soccer Mom fearing for her children’s safety, and Granny baking each muffin herself in a brick oven using a millennium old family recipe that magically produces butter-trapping nooks and crannies.

    What I find disingenuous about this article is that Ariel engages in these same practices as he is condemning, albeit not to the same degree. I’ve read too many “reviews” on abtw that are obviously trying to be polite and not step on toes. A truly independent reviewer would have no problems declaring Hublot, Laureato, and Piaget Polo to be derivative work from Genta designs, and then dismissing them.

    The damn thing is though, I dismissed the Laureato as derivative until I saw one in person and tried it on. It’s such a good derivative that it shows the genius of Genta’s best designs, and I wanted it. LOL!

    • Ariel Adams

      Rob, I respectfully suggest that you are bulking too many concepts into one statement – and I disagree with your assessment. I am not speaking against advertising. I am speaking against the practice of buying someone’s opinion. aBlogtoWatch has advertising messages which come from advertisers. I don’t sell my opinion and tell people to buy a watch I don’t think is good or is right for a particular demographic (I don’t represent all demographics for sure).

      Consumers like to hear from advertisers. They like to hear about products and services that are both intended for them and which are competitive. What consumers don’t like is to be manipulated by sources which call themselves trusted – such as media. Just because I am pulling some punches in a watch review when being overly harsh doesn’t get any additional advice across is not the same thing as someone accepting cash to say “you all should buy this, and by the way I think it will be collectible and increase in value.” Those are entirely different types of behavior and I don’t think it is fair to characterize my discussion is being disingenuous. At worst you and other audience members can identify areas where there is indeed a thin line between editorial integrity and trying to placate industry forces. In those instances all I can try to do is lead by example navigating each unique situation with the consumer’s best interest in mind.

      • Rob Crenshaw

        Ariel, I don’t see the same fine line/grey area as you, not being involved in running abtw or any business that involves advertising. That said, I do read your reviews as pulling punches, and from my standpoint that is the same thing as accepting money for an opinion. They are both dishonest; we are only discussing degrees of dishonesty.

        The second you accept advertising, your opinion is already bought, because your goals becomes monetization, profit, and keeping your baby alive. I’ve seen it happen already in the audio underground press, magazines like TAS and Stereophile were no ad/subscription funded, and when they started accepting ads, the end started, and now those magazines are either gone or one big ad from cover to cover

        Compromise and the acceptance of money is a slippery slope, and you can still believe you’re at the tip of it right before you fall off the roof.

        To be much more clear about this, if I were to run a review site, I
        would accept no advertising, and all opinions would be 100% honest and
        unrestrained. The money to run the site would come from my pocket as a
        labor of love, or if finances started becoming unmanageable, I would ask
        readership to donate in a much more transparent way than Wikipedia
        does. If that still did not pay the bills, I would close the site.

        OR,

        if someone offered me a lot of money for the site because our annual
        Top 10 List was marketable, I’d take the money and run, making it clear
        to the readership what I’d done.

        • Ariel Adams

          As you said yourself, you’ve not run a business of this type and we’ve all had experiences playing “armchair CEOs.” I try to run the editorial section in a sort of academic manner. Meaning that what we publish is open for “peer review.” If we do something that looks suspect and can’t defend it, then we wouldn’t do it again. In addition to our instincts, we regularly take feedback from the audience on future decisions we make and I’d like to think we are pretty open about where our minds are at. We have honest and detailed conversations with the audience (as well as advertisers, brands, and our colleagues) about all of this. I’m not sure you can find too much that is better than that out there. If you want to say that in a strict technical sense we can’t abide by each notion we advocate for then you’ll be able to find gray areas for sure. I think what is more important is simply taking this discussion and using it as part of any well-prepared consumer’s arsenal of decision-making tools.

          • Rob Crenshaw

            And again, you’ve proven my point by saying I’ve not run
            a business of this type. You’ve proven it by calling it a business. I would not run my site as a business bc I know there would be compromise involved as soon as I accepted money from brands in the industry I was reviewing. That said, I don’t mind at all what you choose to do, or how you rationalize it. My business involves examining closely and finding holes and discrepancies, especially when the human mind is involved.

            To move on to your point, just take this exchange as one person’s opinion as to how they read your site. I don’t mind the sugar-coated reviews, I can read between the lines and/or decide for myself. I only find myself engaging like this when you publish exposés or treatises that always smell like personal crusades masquerading as important ways to change the corrupt watch industry.

    • What fresh hell is this?

      ALL advertising is deceptive

      Absolutely.

      And a great product needs no advertising.

  • Buy and Sold

    I think Kylie Kardashian is cool and I buy a watch she recommends. I did not buy the watch because Kylie Kardashian genuinely likes the watch; I bought it because Kylie told everyone she likes it. When my friend who also follows Kylie sees that I have the watch she recognizes it as cool. I am willing to pay a premium for an influencer endorsed watch, and I derive as much satisfaction from this as a more sophisticated watch buyer may gain from buying a watch that has been given positive reviews in the watch press.

    • Playboy Johnny – Team Mariu$

      Seek therapy immediately.

      • egznyc

        I’m not 100% sure – how can anyone be – but I’m pretty sure he’s doing a parody routine. At least I hope so ;-).

        • What fresh hell is this?

          It nudges up against Poe’s Law but it’s too earnest not to be a parody IMO.

          That and the invented “Kylie Kardashian”.

    • Raymond Wilkie

      I don”t mean to be funny but are you serous?

      • AndrewF

        I think that post attempts to present an alternative perspective, and let’s face it – not entirely wrong. Besides… influencers are nothing new under the sun, only their ‘title’ and media has changed. In the 60 Rolex made then-famous skier Jean Claude Killy their ambassador – they paid him, and he wore their watch. Rolex is a good watch but I doubt it made Killy a better skier. People saw him wear the watch so they bought one – and it didn’t make them ski any better either.

        At the end of the day, what is the difference between Kardashian and Killy? Well… Killy actually achieved something 🙂 – but his achievement wasn’t related to watches in any way.

  • Elliott Axinn

    Besides uneducated consumers getting jerked around, these same people also miss out on the joys of learning about watches. Maybe I’m just saying this because I can’t afford most of the watches I lust after, and all I can do is read, watch videos, and do everything else to learn about them. One example of the results of my research and self-education was finding out about Ball watches. One of my dream watches is a Ball. I had the joy of discovering this brand and even introducing it to my watch enthusiast friend who subsequently bought one. Learning about watches not only helps you avoid being influenced by paid influencers, but it is the only way to truly appreciate a great watch.

  • ncgh

    I’m a reader, not part of the blog crew.

    I see no dishonesty in the ‘givaways’. They plainly explain what is happening, it’s plainly advertising, and a chance to get free goodies.

    The sin is not advertising…the sin is pretending that advertising is something else. Note that the sponsored articles on this website are plainly market as such.

    • egznyc

      I appreciate your reply (and Ariel’s). Now if only I could ever win one ;-).

  • Rob Crenshaw

    One more thing. I just read the FTC Guidelines referenced in the article above, and I find this sentence misleading: “FTC has specific laws about influencers being required to disclose..”

    I don’t see that the FTC has any specific laws regarding such. There is a basic Truth In Advertising law that is discussed as to whether it applies to influencers, and this is as strong as the FTC’s stance is:

    “The Guides themselves don’t have the force of law. However, practices inconsistent with the Guides may result in law enforcement actions alleging violations of the FTC Act.”

    Iow empty threats. The letter they sent to influencers seemed more like scare tactics, and if there is no real law behind it then the industry will walk all over it. FB sold out millions of users private info, and they own IG. Does anyone really think Zuckerberg et al care about influencers treading on mainly firm but slightly squishy legal ground? Even the 3 people who might be prosecuted as examples, like the RIAA did with the unstoppable force that is file sharing, the Truth In Advertising laws carry no fines, and the only punishment is returning the payola. This is from the FTC website I just read.

    This FTC admonishment isn’t going to stop anybody.

    • Ariel Adams

      The FTC’s guidelines are heavily relied upon by law enforcement to determine when there has been a “truth in advertising” violation. In other words, the guidelines are there to further articulate existing laws and can be found here:

      https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/ftcs-endorsement-guides-what-people-are-asking

      • Rob Crenshaw

        I read all those and made my statement based on the only part of that Guide that is relevant or important: the legality, which I quoted. The rest is someone’s op-ed piece and is meaningless.

        • Independent_George

          I don’t think you understand what “force of law” means. That Guidelines do not have “force of law”; that simply means that one cannot be held criminally liable — i.e., be deprived of liberty or property. You cannot be held criminally liable for violating a guideline (and civilly as well, those there are exceptions!). It does not mean that it’s on “op-ed piece and is meaningless.”

          Guidelines provide — guess what — guides(!) that provide assistance when 1) investigating if a violation of the law has occurred and 2.) assistance to a trier of fact (usually a court) that helps come to a reasoned decision when adjudicating a claim that a law has been violated. In plain English? Laws, particularly rules and regulations governing economic activity, are written in very broad strokes because it is almost impossible to pass laws that apply to every since contingency that occurs when conducting business. So a law enforcement needs direction – needs a map, a guide – to help investigate whether a violation of a law may have occurred, and the court will follow guidelines when coming to a decision. Hence guides!

          It works this way. Someone is served a complaint accusing him (or her) of violating an IRS rule. This person, let’s call him (or her) the Defendant, doesn’t settle with the IRS and ends up in Tax Court. In these cases, and it is almost always a small business owner not represented by counsel (because an attorney would have settled this months or years ago). So the US Attorney makes his case in front of the Judge, and as evidence that a violation has occurred, points to violations of various guidelines. The defendant, not represented by counsel but who knows how to Google “guidelines” and “Force of Law” squirms in his seat, itching for a chance to make his argument. And when it’s his turn to argue his side, he’ll spend five to 10 minutes explaining that guidelines have no “force of law”. This is when you will see the Judge lean over and start talking to his clerk, you’ll see the US Attorney start scribbling notes. The defendant might believe that the US Attorney has been flummoxed by his brilliant rhetorical skills, but 99% of the time the US Attorney is drafting parts of a memo on a completely unrelated case. After the defendant presents his case, the US Attorney then may, or may not, offer case law to remind the Judge just how Guidelines apply. Usually, he doesn’t, because the Judge knows. When the decision is reached, the Judge will cite to . . . wait for it . . . various violations of guidelines (!) in support of his decision that a violation of a law, rule or regulation has occurred.

  • Ariel Adams

    Thank you Steve.

  • Dimman

    It’s not just outright buying opinions. It’s extending privileges to the media that are covering products ‘objectively’. They get invited to ‘press events’ like the AP dinners and shows and reveal parties to get access to the product they cover (Code 11:59). They have no contract to write anything, but the way they were just treated like Kings and maybe if they say what they *really* think about a miss of a product (Code 11:59) they don’t get an invite to the fancy parties next year…

  • Rommel Quiambao

    Great article! Isn’t available so you can’t have it immediately hmm..steel models?

  • Clete

    Prior to this article I was unaware that “influencer” was anything other than a title that tedious wingnuts give to themselves. I was further unaware that anyone was ever swayed by reviews or advice that wasn’t backed up by data. “Oooh, (famous person) likes (item or service) I should get (item or service) and ignore all good sense and the fact that they are paid to say they like (item or service).”

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Can i just say that the feedback from this article has been fantastic. Keep it up peeps.

  • Dominic Adler

    Yes, good article. This stuff needs to be said frequently and loudly.

  • Eric Gordon

    Great perspective and thanks for raising awareness of this. At the end of the day it’s always “buyer beware.” This tactic exists because it works.

  • Playboy Johnny – Team Mariu$

    No Sunday morning article ???

  • Warsh

    People in glass houses…….While I really enjoy ABTW and other watch blogs, the fact that they are supported by advertising from the same brands they review is problematic. And it shows in how seldom you read a negative review on any of them…..

  • Greg Dutton

    This is the kind of article that keeps me coming back to ABTW; it’s something most other watch sites wouldn’t even touch, because they’re neck deep in the sh#t themselves and don’t want to bring attention to it.

    I think it’s all about deception and disclosure. An actor in a watch ad is clearly being paid for their time. But when your favorite watch blog gushes over an unknown micro or repeatedly features certain brands, it’s hard to tell what’s going on. The FTC guidelines are very clear that *any* compensation for an endorsement must be disclosed in the article/post itself. And it almost never happens. ABTW is the only watch site I can think of that has clearly marked sponsor content, but there may be others I’m not aware of.

    The watch industry has always had a lot of smoke and mirrors, but social media has added another layer, and I get the impression that a lot of people in the watch community are tired of the non-stop bullsh#t, even from sites and blogs that they trust.

    Thanks again to ABTW for tackling this subject, and keep up the good work!

    • Ariel Adams

      Thank you Greg.

  • Sky

    Informative piece.

    BTW, it’s “complement[ed]” not “compliment[ed]”.

  • Fox2

    Caveat emptor

  • Avi Katz

    Your thesis assumes that the motivation behind a watch purchase is binary; either the perception of popularity/status because famous people are wearing it or simply the appreciation and love one has for the watch. I suspect there are a lot of people motivated by the combination of the two or something on between. Besides, what’s wrong with wanting a watch that communicates status to others? Isn’t that how all marketing works? Who says watch buyers need to be well informed watch-experts who would make the same watch purchase had they lived in a vacuum?

    • Ariel Adams

      There is nothing wrong with wanting a watch that communicates status. What is wrong are deceptive and manipulative practices designed to evoke a sense of status. I want high-status items to earn that position, not gain that position because a few currently popular people are paid to say “its the best!”

      • Avi Katz

        Sorry, I don’t really see the difference. I follow ABTW and give weight to your writers’ opinions because you guys know your watches thereby signalling to my mind that people will be impressed by my watch. The same is true when I see Steph Curry wearing a Cartier Skeleton, James Bond wearing an Omega or a rich gangster on Narcos wearing a Rolex. If a particular blogger obtains a following, his/her opinion will matter to me because I figure there’s a reason the blogger is popular. All marketing, particularly for luxury items works that way. An AP is beautiful because of its brand status. If AP were an unknown company and would introduce the Royal Oak, I bet very few consumers would appreciate it.

  • Randy Mac

    “The First Step: Shame Insecure Followers & Celebrate Confident Consumers”. Why shame insecure followers? Why not do more to educate followers and/or consumers. If you really want to shame someone, start naming the brands you know participate in deceptive and blackhat influencer marketing.

  • These are most comments I’ve seen (in a while) for an article that’s not a giveaway!

  • Social media is a vast cesspool of ignorance and deception, and anyone who thinks they can dredge trustworthy information from it’s depths is a sucker.

    • Rob Crenshaw

      I should have just cut and pasted your comment.

    • Playboy Johnny – Team Mariu$

      Excellent comment.

  • egznyc

    These are the kinds of articles that are most memorable; they are clearly the product of a thoughtful and passionate blogger who has something timely to share. What’s wonderful is how thoughtful and passionate the comments are as well. Thank you!

    • Ariel Adams

      You are welcome.

  • Lurch

    The devil is in the details.

  • Dimman

    Another ethics point that should be addressed is media such as Hodinkee and Revolution doing co-branded sales of new watches from brands they ‘review’.

    Even the used/vintage sales of Hodinkee end up shady when they write ‘articles’ espousing the awesome history of vintage pieces that they coincidentally have for sale in their shop.

    • Ariel Adams

      If you are in the business of selling a product you write about – then you are no longer a news publication, but rather a store with a content division. That’s OK, but they consumers visiting these platforms should be made aware of what they are being told versus sold.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    You struck a nerve with this one Ariel!

    • Agnar Sidhu

      Yeah, I think the chances are good for this one coming in high on the top 10 list for 2019:)

      • Raymond Wilkie

        It’s nice to see so many comments.So many people expressing their opinion. I always wonder where everyone is.

  • otaking241

    Always enjoy Ariel’s editorials. I think my biggest problem with this one is that you never do give a firm definition of what an “influencer” is, and how it creates a problem that is unique from other forms of advertising. Is George Clooney appearing on an Omega ad one of these problematic “influencers?” If not, how is the problem of Joe Schmoe pimping a watch that Omega gave him on his Instagram or in an article on WatchBlogAlpha fundamentally any worse?

    All media coverage in the enthusiast realm is inherently compromised because you are all dependent on the manufacturers for one thing or another. Either to send you products to review, invite you to their events, or even just give you information. True journalistic objectivity is impossible in this scenario. If you want evidence, just look around and see how much truly, truly “bad” press there is out there in this space.

    Once Everyday Consumer accepts that there is no such thing as pure journalistic integrity in the world of enthusiast media then we just treat everything we read as an advertisement, and adjust our skepticisms accordingly. While I certainly agree that there are shades and variations, and noting where coverage has been outright purchased is desirable, I would argue that in fact all coverage is purchased at some level, and that “influencers” are just the latest and lowest rung in the race to the bottom that started when the concept of “advertising” was first invented millennia ago.

    I think if you were really shooting for true journalistic integrity you would name names, and not just say “I’m going to shame some loosely defined groups that I don’t like.” Take a stand. Be that guy. Otherwise you’re just an “influencer” like everyone else, however much you try to cloak yourself in journalistic integrity.

    I read ABTW because it’s entertaining and informative, but have no misconceptions that it is “journalism” in the purest sense. And that’s fine! Just don’t pretend like “influencers” are some kind of unique problem.

    • Ariel Adams

      Hey there. So a few important things to point out. First is that the term influencer – as you pointed out is very open-ended. It could be anything including a celebrity, magazine, or just some person you see on the street. With that said, I generally tend to consider influencers for the purposes of marketing conversations as anyone who sells messages. That can be someone on Instagram or a traditional newspaper.

      Second, I think you are right that promises of neutrality are totally overblown. I like to call myself an editorialist and not an journalist. I’m not saying that journalistic integrity is the main issue here – because yes that would be a mis-characterization of what aBlogtoWatch mostly does. However, the issue here is about transparency and being honest with your audience. What we always try to do on aBlogtoWatch is make it clear when a message is a fact, our opinion, or a message from an advertiser. Transparency is what allows our audience to make up their own mind about things – which is exactly what I want happening. My real mission is to inform and educate so people will be gravitated to products that match their own tastes – not just what someone wants the audience to buy.

  • Gastarbeiter

    Many thanks for the article.

    personally I would also challenge the ambassadors role. Highly paid for their earned fame elsewhere. Could be they are are brand aficionados, could be not.

    It would have been far more effective if for example brands chose randomly actual buyers and “following” them in real life situations!.

  • Andrew Thomas

    Who cares? All you need is a Sub and Speedy Pro. Their best days are many decades ago, but they have juuuuust the right amount of paid ambassador support, an online troll bank to spit venom and diss the competition (for example, some of them are commenters on here), and enough media coverage to make someone with a blank-canvas mind and several thousand dollars of E-Z credit spill their beans. Simple! Just purchase high-dollah luxury product in order to make self feel good.

  • Ariel Adams

    Thank you kindly Evan.

  • ShaneWH

    Great piece Ariel, and a problem that’s been on my mind as I see particular watch channels gain popularity and move from initially pure enthusiasm to becoming something loser to a shopping channel. On a related point that might be worth looking at down the line, that need to make “attractive” content that you mentioned also means a narrowness of focus on social media. Lesser-known brands might make quality watches and great alternatives, but Rolex or the Speedie etc will get the Likes…

  • John Effing Zoidberg

    I find it interesting that in the Forbes version of this article, you draw attention to how readers like to look to the comment sections and social media comments for honesty/counterbalance. Was that stuff added by Forbes editors?

    [images captioned thusly:
    “The comments sections is where many consumers look for honesty.”
    “Consumers are quick to call out biased, paid media behavior” — social media comments
    “Consumer anger at even suspected black hat marketing hurts brands and media owners alike” –social media comments]

  • I was desperately hoping we weren’t the only ones who noticed that post before it was *deleted* several minutes later…

  • Ariel Adams

    “aBlogtoWatch is keeping things real” is probably as good a motto for what we try to do as I could come up with myself. Thanks for stating it like that.

  • Ariel Adams

    I would have just changed the caption to read “want to read dial… BAD!”

    • ABTW>Dink

      Touche, Ariel.

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