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7 times social media campaigns went sour

The old media mantra used to be never work with children or animals. These days you can add to that ‘or the public as a whole, online, unless you really know exactly what you’re doing’.
For brands, sometimes playing the social media game is far from safe, and winning is never easy. It’s impossible to tell when a campaign might be at risk of backfiring, until it goes live, but there are ways in which companies and agencies can try and predict an impending catastrophe.
Does the business have poor corporate social responsibility? Is the campaign hypocritical or potentially controversial? Does it accidentally touch nerves opened up by recent events in the news? Is it just plain insensitive? Here are 7 examples when these points should have been considered properly, saving everyone a massive headache in the long run…
[Tweet “7 times #socialmedia campaigns went sour – great examples by @SmokingGunPR”]

#WalkersWave selfie stunt dives south

It seemed like a great idea. Ask the public to send in selfies which would automatically be embedded in an image of Gary Lineker to get Walkers crisps all over social media. Sadly, though, the snack giant didn’t account for the public’s sardonic sense of humour. Cue the likes of Fred West, Jimmy Saville, and Rolf Harris featuring in the pictures. #Ohdear.

#AskBG anything (just not that)

British Gas really needs to understand its customer base better. After announcing an eye-watering price hike of more than 10% for gas and 8% for electricity, the company chose social media to field questions and (attempt to) justify the decision. #AskBG was launched, and chances are you can guess what happened next. Our favourites:
“Which items of furniture do you, in your humble opinion, think people should burn first this winter? #AskBG???
“What is the best temperature to thaw an elderly relative? #AskBG???

Microsoft Tay – or beware the bots, and the trolls

It seems like a pretty easy solution, creating a bot to automatically respond to inbound social media engagement, but if tech leader Microsoft can’t get it right then we should all be very wary. Tay was an innocent chatbot turned into a far right, misogynistic arse in just 24 hours by online trolls who exploited the algorithm the system was built on, which basically meant the more people talked to it the more it learnt how to be like them.
[Tweet “#MicrosoftTay, Carrie Fisher-Cinnabun, and more #socialmedia #marketing fails right here”]

Cinnabon and Carrie Fisher-gate

This one wins our prize for most pointless fail. Barely even a campaign, in the wake of Carrie Fisher untimely death, pastry chain Cinnabon released this image of her as Princess Leia, made from sweet baked products, explaining how she would ‘always have the best buns in the galaxy’. Sadly, the actress had spent several decades explaining how much she loathed that hair cut, and so her fans were vehemently unforgiving.

Heinz means porn

QR codes never really exploded here in the UK. Perhaps that’s not too surprising, though, when you consider what happened to Heinz. Including a code to be scanned on the back of its famous ketchup, the company forgot to keep up with payments for the URL this linked to, and an adult movie site replaced the intended domain. Talk about winding up red faced and saucy.

There are no giraffes in Ghana, Delta

Congratulations were in order when the U.S. football team beat Ghana in the World Cup. Delta, one of America’s main airlines, was quick to respond, but unfortunately failed to do even the most basic research about the country that lost, meaning it was up to the unforgiving twittersphere to correct the mistake, pointing out Ghana has no giraffes, and making the carrier look, well, a little bit racist.
[Tweet “@SmokingGunPR chooses some incredibly unbelievable #socialmedia #marketing fails”]

And finally- Sea World what were you thinking?

Another from the file marked ‘Don’t Ask The Public’, Sea World has one of the worst animal rights reputations in the world, and still thought it could get away with a Twitter campaign inviting queries on how its parks are run. Let’s just leave it at that, once you’re done slapping yourself in the forehead.

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