There used to be this term -- “Indian giver” -- which meant reneging on a gift or fair trade. It has fallen out of use, partly because it is deemed to be racially offensive. Although it originated in a genuine difference between how Europeans and Native Americans understood exchanges of property (see Lewis & Clark), the recognition of different cultural norms predictably enough came to impute bad faith to an entire continent of indigenous peoples.
Which was unfair and stupid. Why accuse Native Americans of sharp dealing for merely practicing their traditions of quid pro quo, while giving a total pass to actual double dealers such as ad-network reps, podiatrists and Congress? Oh, there was also the bitter irony thing. After all, if we’re talking about reneging -- how about the countless promises, laws and treaties unilaterally abrogated by the white man over centuries, most particularly the 19th?
“Ha ha! Just kidding. You’re worn out from the Trail of Tears, so we’ve gone ahead and made reservations for you…and not at Le Bernardin. You’ve gotta squeeze into the most arid land in North America! Those guys in the blue uniforms will help. And as a bonus we’re going to name our sports teams after you, because you don’t have to be a Lion or Bear to be savage. All you need is a little aboriginality!”
So, yeah -- to those who are not tone-deaf to bigotry (paging Dan Snyder), “Indian giver” has a very bad ring to it. But I think maybe just this once it deserves a comeback. Because again there are clearly two cultures occupying the same country, and they have very different ideas of what constitutes a gift, an agreement and perpetuity.
I speak, of course, of the culture of Big Social on the one hand, and on the other hand, everyone else.
You recall, no doubt, that for years Facebook encouraged brands to cultivate followers and likes, so that their ongoing conversations with their peeps could find their way organically into the newsfeeds of the entire Facebook-o-sphere. But then (or maybe long before then) Facebook realized that it was in the ad sales racket, and every organic social message between a brand and its fans was costing the company money. So unilaterally, it changed the rules -- reducing free brand access to the newsfeed to a pittance.
Not to worry, digital marketers! They helpfully offered sponsored posts to take up the slack! The line forms at the cashier.
In other words, kind of like the Indian Removal Act of 1830, minus only the public debate.
Well, not to be outdone, now comes YouTube. Here was a Google pitch to brands from only last July, in what had become a familiar refrain of encouraging marketers to exploit paid, owned and earned opportunities on the world’s dominant video platform:
The YouTube audience is more than just viewers—it’s fans. As brands continue to blur the line between advertiser and creator, we want to recognize those brands that regularly publish content—paid or otherwise—to build an engaged fanbase. That’s why we’re excited to launch the first-ever quarterly Brand Channel Leaderboard. Selection is based on an algorithm that factors in multiple signals of audience passion and popularity, including watch time, repeat viewership, likes and shares, surfacing only those channels that have the most engaged, active fanbases.
Okay -- that was then. This is now. Because it turns out that brands have been engaging their fan bases partly by cutting product-placement and endorsement deals directly with YouTubers -- which, when undisclosed, seems to be a direct violation of FTC blogging rules, but nonetheless just the sort of YouTube opportunity Google has been promoting for years. Until now. Google already gets 45% of ad revenue going to content providers. Now it wants a cut of the direct brand deals as well.
Plus right of ways through your land, plus any actual arable acreage in Oklahoma.
Plus, of course, everybody’s continued trust.