Published on: April 16, 2014by Kate McMahon
Two brand blunders are dominating social media this week, one shockingly cringe-worthy and the other just stupidly insulting.
We are talking about The Tweet, and the Veet commercial.
The pornographic tweet occurred Monday on US Airways’ official Twitter feed, with more than 400,000 followers. A link that was supposed to take an unhappy flier named “Elle” to a customer service site instead revealed a revolting lewd photo of a nude woman and a toy airplane. Enough said.
It gets worse. The photo was on the site for almost one hour before US Airways yanked the “inappropriate image” and apologized. But cropped, blurred and even unedited versions are everywhere. The airline said it was investigating how the XXX-rated shot that was posted to its feed by another user and then red-flagged “inadvertently” ended up as an official response. It appears to have been human and/or computer error, not an outside hack job.
This has already catapulted to the top of the worst-ever corporate Twitter fail list, but I am stunned that a major airline’s social media team didn’t catch this calamitous tweet sooner. One hour is more like a century in the Twitterverse, the most real time platform of all social media.
In fact, the apology was retweeted 4,000 times in just 20 minutes.
The response on Twitter and elsewhere? Shock, and not surprisingly, a slew of posts ranging from humorous to raunchy.
The Veet commercial is an example of a self-imposed really bad idea imploding on social media.
The hair removal brand promised its 300,000 plus Facebook followers a sneak peek of its new “Don’t Risk Dudeness” commercial before it premiered on “Dancing with the Stars.” Veet should have pulled the plug right then and there.
The first commercial of the series shows a couple lazing in bed in a hip urban apartment. But when the hunky (and practically hairless) guy goes to reach for his girlfriend’s leg he is shocked and horrified to find a fat, bearded hairy guy in a pink camisole. “I know. I’m a bit prickly,” the character says in a high-pitched voice. “I shaved yesterday.”
Seriously? Less than 24 hours?
The other ads showed the same hairy oaf (think Zach Galafianikis) in a dress being snubbed by a cab driver and scolded by a masseuse for stubble.
The tagline was: "Don't risk dudeness. Feel womanly around the clock.”
The internet lit up with criticism in less time than it takes to rip off a waxing strip, starting with Veet’s own Facebook page, and the posts slamming the ads far outnumbered the “Geez, lighten up ladies” comments.
• “You've managed to offend just about everyone - the ads are sexist, homophobic and transphobic. The body shaming is deplorable.”
• “You just alienated your entire target audience. Bravo.”
• “When this commercial aired I was sitting at a table of two women and three men, and ALL FIVE of us found this to be completely offensive and degrading toward women.”
Veet got the message, pulled the entire campaign (even from YouTube) and its marketing team responded on Facebook , saying "We just wanted to let everyone know, we get it - we're women too. This idea came from women who told us that at the first hint of stubble, they felt like 'dudes.' It was really simple and funny, we thought. To be honest, the 3 of us could really relate to these real-life moments and they made us laugh. Not everyone appreciated our sense of humor.”
They should have tested that “humor” with a larger female audience. And remembered that women are more inclined to purchase products (even/especially hair removers) that make them feel good about themselves, as Dove’s successful Real Beauty campaign has illustrated.
Though The Tweet and the Veet campaign are two drastically different scenarios, there is a shared business takeaway. Good, bad or unintentionally pornographic, a tweet or Facebook post can go viral in less than a minute. Ditto backlash.
Companies must be prepared to react even to the unexpected immediately and apologize if necessary, or face the consequences.
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- KC's View: