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Posts Tagged ‘Gaffe’

PR own goals leave Germans feeling cold

February 2, 2012 Leave a comment

As if their continued efforts to save the Euro weren’t giving them enough of a headache, recent German attempts to sell cars and excite football fans have also failed to hit the mark.

As any Englishman will tell you, the weather has a nasty habit of messing up the best laid plans. From BBQs to Wimbledon, the rain can be relied on to appear when it is least welcome. Similarly the winters of 2009 and 2010 were unusually harsh just when retailers most needed people to be able to get out and spend their money.

So while we applaud their innovative thinking we can also sympathise with German agency Sassenbach Advertising who have seen their clever weather themed idea turn into a icy nightmare.

Seeking a “wind and weatherproof idea” to support the launch of the new Mini Cooper Roadster, they took advantage of the “adopt-a-vortex” scheme run by Berlin’s Free University and named the current high pressure front sweeping across Europe ‘Cooper’.

All was going swimmingly until ‘Cooper‘ dropped to -33 Celsius, disrupted transport across the continent and claimed over 100 lives.

The campaign also involved buying a low front to be called ‘Minnie’ later in the year that one hopes will be less destructive.

A statement from BMW confirmed that while they had bought the names they didn’t have control over when they were used and that clearly, they regretted any loss of life.

While the whole episode has been highlighted as a bit of an gaffe, BMW and their agency haven’t done anything wrong and the €299 price tag for naming the weather seems cheap even though the publicity it has provoked isn’t what was planned.

The same can’t be said for German football giants Bayern Munich who upset their fans with an ill thought out launch of an app.

Last week, as the January transfer window was coming to a close, the club told their 2.7m Facebook fans that they had just signed a new striker who would be announced exclusively via a Facebook app in around an hour.

Naturally, the announcement set social networks alight. To set the scene, Bayern had recently lost to Borussia Mönchengladbach and seen target Marco Reus sign for rivals Borussia Dortmund.

As the clock ticked down, fans debated which star they’d be seeing at Allianz Arena with Manchester based duo Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov among the suggestions.

However when the announcement was made it became clear that the club had misjudged things enormously.

A live stream with Markus Hörwick (Comms Director),  Chrsitian Nerlinger (General Manager) and Philipp Lahm (Club Captain) announced that the new star player was actually the fan themselves, the 12th man of the squad.

The app then showed fake press announcements, mock interviews with star players welcoming the ‘new player’ and shirts with the users name.

What could have been a great value added experience resulted in a terrible user experience, compounded by the app crashing, with fans venting their anger on various social networks.

The press, who had also been kept in the dark showed great schadenfreude, gleefully spreading news of the failure which ended up trending worldwide on Twitter.

Within three hours the club had received over 5,000 complaints from angry fans and was forced to offer an apology.

Both brands will survive their difficult week. Mini because they didn’t do anything malicious and Bayern because disappointment is all part of being a football fan.

Let’s just hope their fiscal policies have better results.

Creating Buzz without Causing Offence

When some campaigns go awry, it’s often due to external sensitivities that, in the passion of the creative moment, sometimes go unacknowledged. We might question how an agency could have overlooked such a thing, but as we know it is all too easy for groupthink to set in. In October 2009, Zeitgeist wrote about one such gaffe, when DDB made a very hard-hitting and extremely controversial ad for WWF, using 9/11 imagery. It’s important to point out that the real story there was more to do with the painful process of admission that DDB went through rather than the ad itself.

In February, the South African film Night Drive arrived in cinemas. An agency by the name of 1984 was responsible for the advertising in its domestic market. To drum up interest, 1984 decided to take a viral approach and distribute fliers in Johannesburg, offering “the best prices for all your body parts and organs”. Naturally this raised concern, as the fliers themselves looked genuine in an amateur way, with the police treating it as a serious matter. Indeed, earlier that month, elsewhere on the continent in Liberia, The Economist reported on crimes where “body parts such as the heart, blood, tongue, lips, genitals and fingertips, all used in sorcery to bring wealth and power, are removed”. Worse still, members of government were being implicated as they looked for anything to give them an advantage ahead of elections. The agency’s parent company swiftly apologised.

It’s a terribly unfortunate tale that sometimes can happen. Agencies are susceptible to this more often than you might think, and the reasons for this are twofold. Think about what agencies are trying to do in the creation and execution of a campaign. Firstly, they are aiming for verisimilitude, especially if the product being sold (in this case a film), is fictional. Secondly, they are trying to get someone’s attention in a marketplace that is incredibly cluttered; increasingly the message needs to be unique to stand out above the fray, even more so with a stacked, year-round movie calendar.

Indeed, film marketing is therefore one of the places you are more likely to come across viral efforts. Triumphs include The Dark Knight, which won an award at Cannes Lions in 2009, and the campaign for the excellent film Inception, $100m of which was spent on viral efforts. One of the best features of this campaign was the treasure hunt they organised around the UK, releasing clues on Facebook that could lead fans to tickets to the premiere. Zeitgeist covered this in its review of summer film marketing activity last year. By contrast, the viral campaign for this year’s Limitless, however, was not seen as successful. The campaign involved two prongs. Zeitgeist remembers images such as the one above gracing the London Underground trains, with actor Bradley Cooper selling his super-drug, with one side-effect being “death”. It was confusing, but the copy was such that if the reader was paying any attention, they would soon realise it was fake, and that the website was Paramount Studios-affiliated. The film’s other main effort, a video of a man controlling the screens of Times Square with his iPhone, met with initial excitement, then puzzlement when it emerged it was to do with the film in question.

What do we learn then? Well, we learn that there is a very fine line between obscurity and popularity, between prominence and offence. We learn that there is no golden rule, no pieces of a jigsaw to assemble that makes the consumer look up and listen. And always, always read The Economist.

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