Quite untimely on this, but Saturday February 11th has concluded the 68th edition of the Sanremo Festival. An old and still hugely popular Italian song contest that, even in the internet age, was followed on TV by over 11 millions people in the country.

But this somewhat old-fashioned competition marked an unprecedented event in social network advertising in Italy. Tim, the exclusive sponsor of Sanremo, obtained to get its logo automatically added at the end of the hashtag of the event. So that any time somebody was writing #Sanremo2017 in a tweet, that would automatically become . Like in the the image below.

Sanremo2017 Tim Tweet

Although a minimum disturbance which didn’t prevent Twitter users commenting about the show, such operation seems to me quite beyond what social media should be allowed to do with their users. For one thing is to put targeted ads on my private wall/timeline (which I concede you in exchange of using your platform, that I do for free), but another thing is to intervene on my own words, making changes to my own content. And it’s even less acceptable that this happen for the benefit of an external entity (Tim, in this case) which is not directly involved in what I’m writing about (the song contest Sanremo).

Here’s a related (fictional) scenario from David Foster Wallace’s Infitine Jest. Branded years.

  1. Year of the Whopper
  2. Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad
  3. Year of the Trial-Size Dove Bar
  4. Year of the Perdue Wonderchicken
  5. Year of the Whisper-Quiet Maytag Dishmaster
  6. Year of the Yushityu 2007 Mimetic-Resolution-Cartridge-View-Motherboard-Easy-To-Install-Upgrade For Infernatron/InterLace TP Systems For Home, Office Or Mobile (sic)
  7. Year of Dairy Products from the American Heartland
  8. Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment
  9. Year of Glad

(ref: infinitejest.wallacewiki.com)

EDIT Feb 22, 2017

I’ve corrected the text as I initially wrongly stated that branded hashtags were implemented for the first time for the Sanremo event. This is actually feature called branded emoji that Twitter offers to select marketers (see here).