Annual 2015: Social media fails

Once again brands big and small proved the basic principles of social media etiquette are too hard to grasp for some. Here Simon Canning wraps the biggest #fails of 2015.

Fresh in Our Memories: Woolworths.

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As social media fails go, Woolworths’ ham-fisted attempt to honour the ANZACS will long live fresh in our memories.

As hard as it is to go past paying homage to heroes using a flippant advertising tagline, the social media focus of the campaign earned a special place in the hearts of advertising case study developers everywhere.

The key to the enormity of the failure was the engagement element of the campaign where Aussies were invited to use an image generator to pay tribute to their loved ones who had fought for their country.

It didn’t take long for the reaction to manifest itself in the images generated, with people mocking the strategy by uploading images of Hitler, Tony Abbott, Kevin Rudd and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

The minister for veterans affairs also slammed the campaign.

Within days the website had been pulled down, Woolworths had offered a grovelling apology and the agency behind the effort, Carrspace had shut down its Twitter account to stop staff being abused.

#YourTaxis: Taxi Council of Victoria.

YourTaxis tweetAs the Taxi Industry railed against the disruptive onslaught of Uber, the Victorian Taxi Council hit upon the idea of asking people to share their taxi stories using the hashtag #YourTaxis on the advice of PR agency Ellis-Jones, saying it would deliver “the right message at the right time”. What could possibly go wrong?

Within hours the Taxi Council found out, and the campaign, aimed at promoting goodwill for Victorian Taxis went viral (as was intended) and became a national trend, leaving a sour taste in the mouths of Taxi operators across the country.

Punters used the hashtag to vent their hatred for Taxis, citing rapes, filthy cabs, overcharging, lost taxi drivers and the rest while the Taxi Council bravely stated it had been a success in gathering valuable feedback from users.

Not content with the outpouring of vitriol the campaign produced, the PR agency added insult to injury by tweeting a promotion of how many veterans travelled by cabs with the line #LestWeForget.

By this time the council had dropped the facade of success for the social media experiment and sacked the PR agency while Uber targeted stories covering the debacle as an advertising opportunity.

Mortien: Put Out Your Dress.

louie the fly mortein wideSometimes the line between touching tribute and shameless opportunism is a fine line, sometimes it is cavernous gap.

In 2014 the tragic death of cricketer Phil Hughes sparked the national tribute, #PutOutYourBat.

Just months later the shocking murder of schoolteacher Stephanie Scott prompted a national outpouring of grief with social media trend #PutOutYourDress.

Clearly it was the perfect place for a fast moving consumer goods to play and Mortien’s mascot Louie the Fly appeared tearfully on Facebook commiserating with the nation.

While there was positive comment on the page, the level of criticism that the brand had overstepped the boundaries appearing to capitalise on interest in the tragic story to promote its brand was enough to prompt a rethink.

Parent Reckitt Benckiser made sure the post was removed, along with another paying tribute to cricket legend Ritchie Benaud and apologised for overstepping the mark.

The episode reignited debate on how deeply brands should involve themselves in the national conversation.

MyNutella: Nutella.

nutella fat kidsEveryone is envious of Coke’s gang-busting promotion Share A Coke that personalised cans for the first time. Four years after the fact, Nutella jumped on the personalisation bandwagon with MyNutella, allowing punters to personalise their jar of high sugar spread.

Brand experience agency Momentum Worldwide sent out the release and handily included the website I Quit Sugar. Guess what happened?

The site leapt on the invitation to Nutella’s “party” and immediately personalised a few examples such as “Fat Kids” and “Ooops!”

The interweb didn’t take long to jump on the bandwagon and social media was filled with daring new examples of Nutella labelling highlighting the dietary short-comings of the spread, with freshly branded jars of “Diabetes”, “Regret”, “Poop” and “Anal Lube” making their way into the viral whirlpool.

The promotion is closed, but the labels live on.

Conversation: Westpac and Airbnb. 

Sometimes social media fails aren’t outrageous, offensive or inflamatory, sometimes they are just lame.

Enter Westpac and Airbnb who one quiet Friday morning suddenly discovered each other on Twitter and began a completely spontaneous conversation.

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Excruciating doesn’t cover it as the pair began chatting between themselves about how the bank and the room rental service might be able to team up and, surprise, do something for each other’s customers.

Those patient or bored enough to endure the Twitter exchange were quite to chime in with the appropriate level of cyncism.

“This whole conversation is like a terrible AM radio commercial,” one observer chimed in.

And so the arranged marriage went ahead, but not with the massive viral audience and celebration of the Twitterati that the pair had hoped.


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