Whose mistake in 2014 do you think is the most cringe-worthy? Here is my thinking on the top five advertising “oops moments” of the past year.
1. Kurl On Mattresses
Kurl On Mattresses by means of Ogilvy India released a print ad depicting a cartoon version of Pakistani teen Malala Yousafazi being shot, landing on a Kurl On mattress, then recovering to accept a peace award. The headline just says, “bounce back”. Ha, get it? Although the ad never made it to actual print, Ogilvy posted it on Ads of the World, and, as it should, mass chaos ensued. Basically the take away is, showing 14 year olds who have survived Taliban assassination attempts getting shot in the face and recovering because of your mattress is probably not the best direction for your campaign.
2. Victoria’s Secret
Not that Victoria’s Secret is known for being the most all-encompassing when it comes to female beauty standards, but their “Perfect Body” campaign was actually worse than usual. I generally think that most times when people get angry with “body shaming”, they’re just looking for something to whine about on the Internet. (Sorry, but come on, you can’t get offended over something like a mannequin being too skinny, because it’s a damn mannequin.) However, I have to admit that Victoria’s Secret running a whole campaign based on the “perfect body” that only featured nearly identical, ridiculously proportioned models got a few well-deserved eye rolls. After a PR apology, the campaign was changed to, “A Body For Every Body”, which apparently soothed the flaring temper of the Internet, although in my opinion, I don’t see how it’s much better.
3. Urban Outfitters
Urban Outfitters managed to out-do themselves on the hipster bullshit scale. If anyone can one-up themselves on that scale, it’s either going to be American Apparel or Urban Outfitters, but the red stained Kent State sweatshirt fail was pretty impressive, even for UO. Basically, the well-known retailer released an old sweatshirt from Kent State University covered in red splatters that look disarmingly like blood. Considering Kent State is known for a campus shooting tragedy in the 1970’s where four students lost their lives, this was a pretty low blow. The company apologized and stated that the red shirt was supposed to look vintage and sun faded (apparently it was actually faded) but leave it to Urban Outfitters to not only not think about what they’re doing but to not even know the backstory in the first place. But it’s so cool and vintage, man.
4. Digorno Pizza
I will confess, I kind of laughed at this at first, then learned about what the hashtag was supposed to mean, then immediately felt a little guilty for laughing. Here’s the story – Digorno Pizza jumped in on a trending topic on Twitter under the hashtag #WhyIStayed. Digorno wrote, “You Had Pizza”. This doesn’t sound too bad until you learn the hashtag was supposed to promote awareness about domestic abuse and foster discussion about the difficulty of being stuck in an unhealthy relationship. I mean, as far as frozen pizza goes, Digorno is pretty good, but they’re not domestic violence good. Whoops. At least tweets are easy to delete.
5. US Airways
My final brand fail of 2014 (and also my favorite) goes to US Airways, also for massively fucking up on Twitter. I think this fail is my favorite because I find it really, like reallllly hard to believe this was an accident for one and two, the guy who posted it didn’t even lose his job, according to the company. So what happened? In case you missed this one, a pretty normal exchange between the brand and an unhappy customer on Twitter went back and forth for a few posts, which ended in US Airways sending a tweet that said, “We welcome your feedback, Elle. If your travel is complete, you can detail it here for review and follow-up” with a picture link below. Awh, thanks US Airways. The only problem was, the picture linked to the tweet is just a girl with a fake airplane in her, um, yeah…. Apparently, the company was trying to flag an inappropriate tweet, somehow accidentally copied the URL of the picture they were attempting to monitor, and sent it out with the apology post instead. They are still maintaining that it was an honest mistake, which it may have been, but I’m just sayin’- I’ve never heard of many other companies accidentally sending porn to angry customers on Twitter.
As surprising as this may sound, not everyone who works in advertising makes the best choices in their job. I guess sometimes you just have to shake your head and accept that you’re responsible for ginormous PR disasters. If anything, we can only hope 2015 will be a year of new creative direction for some of these brands. Until next time, keep up the good work and if you’re going to take your idea in a ridiculous direction, try to avoid going as far as these guys did.
Written by: Jillian Aramowicz – 2nd Quarter Copywriter & CPS Blogger