Despite an upcoming presidential election and the Occupy Wall Street protestors still going strong, it was the always unpredictable Rainn Wilson (aka “Dwight Schrute” from NBC’s The Office) that got the attention of not only his followers but of the nation at large. How? With one simple tweet – well three to be exact. What has now can only be thought of as a PR stunt had many in a frenzy thinking that the TV star had mistakenly tweeted the following on Tuesday, October 25: “Joanne – tell @DelTaco I will not accept $12,000 to plug their sh***y food. Thanks, Rainn.” This message was later followed by, “Please disregard last tweet – was a private text to my assistant.” And this was all wrapped up with the impersonal plug, “Loving the new @DelTaco Macho Bellgrande Burrito! It’s Beeftacular™!”
Had this all been an actual “oops” moment, one may have to credit Wilson for his honesty. Many argue that the highly dramatic Anthony Wiener scandal would have been subsided had the former councilman just come clean in the first place. On the other hand, social media platforms make it hard to tell when a celebrity is promoting a product because he or she is paid to do so or if that person actually likes it. When we see a celebrity promoting makeup on TV, we automatically know that person is being paid to do so. But how do we know what is real from what is fake when it comes to social media?
Whether Wilson was paid to tweet is not the question. Regardless of any monetary compensation, the Del Taco fiasco was good business for all parties involved – Wilson, Del Taco and The Office (I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that more viewers tune in to see tonight’s episode). And that’s no slight to any of them…sponsorships and public endorsements have been a way of life for years.
The question is, as a consumer, do you feel cheated to some extent knowing that social media is being used by your favorite celebrities to promote others’ products and services (whether or not they think they are really great)?