9 Public Relations Disasters So Ridiculously Terrible It’s Almost Like They WANTED To Fail
We’ve all had bad ideas at our job. Most of the time we just get shot down by our bosses and we move on with our day. Sometimes our bad ideas get accepted and we see them fail immediately within the workplace. It’s very rare that someone has an idea so bad that it shuts down a city in fear of a terrorist attack, starts a riot at a baseball game, or creates a racist, anti-Semitic robot. The following are a few of those ideas. Enjoy!
9. 10 Cent Beer Night
It was June 4, 1974. The Cleveland Indians were set to play the Texas Rangers in what would be one of many forgotten baseball games. However, the Indians came up with a promotion for the game to boost ticket sales: 10-ounce cups of beer for 10 cents, maximum 6 cups at a time. For a frame of reference, a red solo cup can hold about 12 ounces of beer, so the cups they were giving out were just shy of being the same size. Needless to say, the fans got rowdy.
The crowd quickly became uncontrollable. Some of the more tame events included a woman flashing the crowd from the on-deck circle, a father and son mooning the players, and many fans jumping onto the field to hangout with the outfielders. It wasn’t until the ninth inning that the fans became reckless.
With the Indians in the lead, fans started throwing batteries, golf balls, cups, and rocks onto the field. Streakers ran amok and base stealers turned into people literally trying to steal bases, whereas others invaded the field and started attacking the Texas Rangers. The Cleveland Indians had to put themselves between the Rangers and their drunk fans, fighting them off with bats. As a result, the Indians had to forfeit, which probably only made matters worse.
The American League president told the franchise to abandon the promotional idea, and this event is possibly why beer is so expensive in a stadium. The worst part is that it’s not even good beer.
8. Lifelock CEO Gets Identity Stolen
It’s refreshing when the CEO of a company is willing to back his product with full confidence, which is why during LifeLock commercials, CEO Todd Davis used his own social security number in the advertisements as opposed to a fake one. LifeLock is supposed to be this software that will protect consumers from identity theft – however the CEO found out the hard way how effective his service was.
Starting in 2007, Todd Davis has been the victim of identity theft over 12 times, despite claiming that his LifeLock product is completely secure. First his identity was stolen once, but once an article was released stating it had happened the once, he had his identity stolen again, and again, and again.
But it gets worse: LifeLock was fined $12 million by the Federal Trade Commission for deceptive advertising as a result of numerous cases where customers have had their identity stolen. FTC Chariman Jon Leibowitz said this about LifeLock: “In truth, the protection they provided left such a large hole … that you could drive that truck through it.” By ‘that truck,’ he was referring to a LifeLock advertisement where a truck painted with Todd Davis’ social security number was driven around a number of city streets.
The company charges customers $10 for the monthly service and promises to compensate customers $1 million if they became a victim of identity theft after signing up for the service, but I’m guessing the CEO isn’t going to see any of that million.
7. 1984 McDonald’s Olympic Promotion
“When the U.S. Wins, You Win” was the name of a McDonald’s promotional event where customers were given a ticket, and when scratched off it revealed the name of an Olympic event on it. If the U.S. won the event, customers were given a free menu item: a Big Mac for a gold medal, french fries for a silver medal, and Coca-Cola for a bronze medal. Not a bad promotion by any means. But this article isn’t about promotions that aren’t bad. So, what went wrong?
Well, the United States’ biggest competitor in the Olympics back in the 1980’s was the Soviet Union. And, since the Olympics were being held in the United States that year, the Soviet Union, as well as East Germany and a number of other Eastern European countries, boycotted the Olympics for political reasons. This meant that instead of winning a predicted 34 gold medals, the United States won 83. Great if you’re a fan of the United States Olympic team, terrible if you’re McDonald’s. They lost millions on the promotion.
McDonald’s should have predicted the boycott. During the 1980 Olympics, the United States team boycotted the Moscow-hosted Olympics to protest the Soviet war in Afghanistan. And well, four years later, when it was hosted in the United States, the Soviet Union returned the favor.
6. Dub The Dew
The Mountain Dew ‘Dub the Dew’ campaign launched in 2012 and has become an Internet phenomenon. It will probably go down in the history of Internet jokes, as well as earn a spot in the Meme hall of fame.
The ’Dub the Dew’ campaign revolved around letting the internet choose the name for the new Mountain Dew product, a green-apple soft drink. The company decided to let the Internet decide the name of the new soda. What could possibly go wrong?
The highest voted answers were: Hitler Did Nothing Wrong, Diabeetus, Gushing Granny, and my personal favorite, Soda. Just imagine a big bottle of soda, literally titled Soda. It’s just funny.
In addition, Internet pranksters hacked the site, and added a banner that read “Mtn Dew salutes Israeli Mossad for demolishing 3 towers on 9/11!” To make matters even worse, the pranksters added a pop up message that RickRoll’d any visitors of the site.
The campaign backfired so badly, the promotion was shut down and official apology from Mountain Dew was released.
5. Snapple’s World’s Largest Popsicle Attempt
It was 2005. Snapple was feeling adventurous. They wanted to erect the world’s largest popsicle in none other than New York City, on the first day of summer. It was going to be historic. The 25 foot tall, 17.5 ton treat of frozen Snapple was going to be an iconic campaign to promote the new line of frozen treats offered by the company. But hey, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to.
The popsicle melted faster than expected, and to be honest, I’m not sure if Snapple even realized that eventually the popsicle would melt on the 80+ degree day. Firefighters had to close off several streets and fire up their hoses to wash away the sugary goo that was literally flooding the street.
The giant popsicle didn’t even break the world record. Event organizers had to call off the event before the Snapple treat stood upright, as they were absolutely horrified that it would collapse while being pulled upright by a construction crane.
This is one of those ideas that sounds really great, until you think about literally any detail surrounding the event.
4. Aqua Teen Hunger Force Bomb Threat
In order to promote the cartoon Aqua Teen Hunger Force, a campaign was launched to place mooninites, characters that invade the world that the show takes place in, around various cities. In most cities, the light board props were seen as harmless. Boston, however, went on a total lockdown as a result of the promotion.
A driver spotted one of the mooninites around the city and informed the bomb squad that there was a suspicious looking lightbox with a series of cables sticking out from it. Boston University and Longfellow Bridges were shut down as a result, and boat traffic from the Charles River to the Boston Harbour was closed as well. The Pentagon was also reported to be closely monitoring the situation.
When it was discovered to be a marketing campaign, the two men responsible for placing the boxes around the city were arrested, and city officials were outraged at the stunt, which is a bit ridiculous if you ask me but I see their point. Some of the LED boxes were placed on private property.
A Boston police spokeswoman called the event a ‘colossal waste of money’ and blamed the marketing team for Aqua Teen Hunger Force for not taking the proper steps to alert city officials of the event.
But I mean, looking at these LED boards – do they look like something a terrorist organization would create? They’re literally a pixelated alien flipping the bird.
Who knew a simple publicity stunt could put an entire city on lockdown?
3. Susan Boyle Album Party
Do you ever think of a hashtag, and when you tweet it out it becomes sort of a jumbled collection of words that can be interpreted many ways? It’s pretty unfortunate. Here you are, with this perfect hashtag to describe an event, and it becomes ruined by people being unable to interpret it correctly. That’s what happened to Susan Boyle, and her #Susanalbumparty Twitter campaign.
Now, maybe my mind wanders to provocative places, and maybe when you look at it you don’t see it, but when I look at that, I see “Su’s Anal Bum Party” which sounds like a great time. Sign me up for that party. I will be there.
Other Twitter users agreed during the campaign, which quickly began trending worldwide. But they weren’t talking about Susan Boyle’s new album, Standing Ovation. People were laughing at the public relations group that created the campaign, and unfortunately, Susan Boyle and her bum became the punchline to many jokes online.
If you’re launching a campaign, or a hashtag promotion, re-read through your materials and ask yourself: Can this be interpreted sexually?
2. Tay Tweets
Microsoft launched a chatbot on Twitter, Tay, in March, 2016. The bot was designed to become ‘smarter’ as more users interacted with it. It was supposed to try to replicate the tweets of a typical, American, young adult between the ages of 18-24. The overall project was designed to learn more about how artificial intelligence programs could engage with users in casual conversation. It was supposed to be a groundbreaking project. But again, the Internet had something else to say about it.
Instead of learning to behave like young millennials, the chatbot was taught by Twitter users to become incredibly racist and anti-Semitic. As more and more users tweeted offensive things to Tay, the more the bot replicated what she was being told over and over again.
Some of the tweets that Tay sent out include, but are not limited to: Hitler was right I hate the jews, I fucking hate feminists and they should all die and burn in hell, and innocently enough, ps4 is cheaper and better. That last tweet is a slap in the face of Microsoft, the company behind the Playstation 4’s biggest competitor, the Xbox One.
Within 24 hours, Microsoft temporarily shut down the Twitter account and said that they were ill prepared for this type of abuse of the system.
Microsoft launched a similar campaign in China, with a chatbot called Xiaolce in 2014. The bot was used by over 40 million people and was known for being a delight to have conversations with. Clearly Internet users in China aren’t as intent on making campaigns turn south like North Americans.
Like any bad idea, it started harmless enough. The New York City Police Department wanted to launch a Twitter campaign to change the image of their police officers. It was going to be a campaign where people tweeted photos of the police helping their communities and being friendly. What it turned into, however, was people tweeting photos of police brutality with smarmy captions, pretending that the police officers were being friendly.
Other photos included people getting run over by police, having their hair pulled, officers sitting on a dog to restrain it, among other things. It was actually pretty hilarious, and a gallery can be found here.
The Twitter campaign disaster encouraged other cities to tweet photos of their communities being brutalized by police officers. Some other cities included Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, and Denver.