1. EA - Just WWI Things
For the launch of Battlefield, EA ran a marketing campaign around the hashtag #justWWIthings, which consisted of images of the game juxtaposed with modern phrases. Examples include an image of a group of soldiers standing in front of a burning airship with the caption ‘When your squad is looking on point’; another featured a soldier using a flamethrower with the caption ‘When you’re too hot for the club’.
Obviously, this trivialisation of the War to End All Wars didn’t go down too well, with EA apologising for causing offence and acknowledging that “It did not treat the World War 1 era with the respect and sensitivity that we have strived to maintain with the game and our communications."
2. Walkers - The Walkers Wave
Designed as a light-hearted and creative competition to win tickets to the Champions League final, Walkers asked users to tweet selfies with the hashtag #WalkersWave. The images would then feature in a video, superimposed on a board and held aloft by a jovial Gary Lineker who would also give a message of thanks, look at the photo and say, ‘Nice selfie’.
It wasn’t long before users were uploading less serious competition entries with images of former US Vice President Joe Biden and popular internet memes, but it was when things took a darker turn that earns Walkers a place on this list.
Users began uploading images of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, quickly followed by abhorrent criminals and other questionable characters, all of which were automatically tweeted by the official Walkers Crisps account.
Walkers caught on and removed all the offending videos, but not before they had been recorded in the annals of internet blunders.
3. Lotto - #Represent
With the Walkers Wave fiasco safely in the past, Lotto devised a campaign to thank the British public for supporting UK athletes at the World Championships. Again, the premise was simple enough: retweet a post using the #represent hashtag. Users who completed this task would be rewarded with their Twitter account name being held up on a board by one of the British Athletics team.
Seems nice enough, but once again, it lacked any form of moderation. Users changed the Twitter names to statements such as ‘Pogba is overrated’ and ‘Brexit Means Brexit’, which were held up by the athletes. But once again, darker, more-hurtful messages started appearing, referring to serial killers, missing children and white supremacy.
This failure is far worse than the Walkers Wave fiasco as the words appear directly attributed to the young athletes holding them up.
Notice the theme around User-Generated Content? The technology driving social media management is becoming more creative in their application: bots can be programmed to respond to questions in Facebook Messenger and external programs can be integrated to create dynamic media based on user-submitted content. It’s through this user-generated content that many of these social media failures happen. Whether it’s through oversight, naivety or sheer laziness, failure to curate these posts resulted in public outcry and potentially hurt people and victims of those mentioned.
Now, no one is perfect and mistakes will always be made – it’s an inevitable part of life. But sometimes you must wonder if anyone had thought these campaigns through.