Jul 20, 2010
Julie

What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

Dr Pepper What's the Worse That Could Happen Facebook Porn ScandalNever underestimate the power of an irrate mother. One disgruntled and ‘shocked’ Glaswegian parent went head to head with Coca-Cola after a promotional campaign for Dr. Pepper on Facebook saw references to an infamous porn video appear on her 14 year old daughters status updates.

Part of the ‘What’s the Worse That Could Happen’ creative, Coca-Cola developed a Facebook application which was made available on the Dr Pepper Facebook page. Fans of the brand were able to enter a competition whereby they could win £1000 if they gave the brand access to their Facebook status updates. So what’s the worse that could happen?

In theory users status updates were to be ‘hijacked’ and embarrassing messages posted such as: “Lost my special blankie. How will I go sleepies?“, “What’s wrong with peeing in the shower?” and “Never heard of it described as cute before.” These updates would have only been visible to each individuals ‘friends’ on the site.

However one 14 year old’s Facebook status update read: ‘I watched 2 girls one cup and felt hungry afterwards’. For those of you currently polishing your halo and whose retina’s aren’t scarred by that video, this is a pretty disgusting remark….this particular video is one of those for which hundreds of ‘reaction videos’ have been uploaded to YouTube – it’s that gross!

So the vigilant young teen’s mum spotted this update on her profile and investigated the remark, discovering it was as a result of the Dr Pepper competition. Her anger increased when she realised that her ‘little girl’ had taken to Google to check out what this reference meant  – resulting in a host of porn sites and related videos being presented to the teen. The woman went to parenting forum Mumsnet to vent her frustrations and share her experience with other parents.

Telling them of her attempt to complain to Coca-Cola about the promotion and have it stopped, she wrote: “So, after various emails and phonecalls to CocaCola marketing I have been offered (quite offensively) as way of compensation, a night in a hotel and theatre tickets for the West End. Fat lot of use to me, we live in Glasgow. So, how do I proceed? ASA? I am absolutely fizzing with rage and disgust, and want a full apology and explanation. CocaCola are saying they use outside marketing teams for different brands and it’s outside their jurisdiction. Help!?

Coca-Cola made two mistakes immediately – Firstly thinking that they could fob off this irate woman off with a ‘gift’. Secondly, picking a completely inappropriate means of compensation.

So the mother – Mrs Rickman – and her Mumsnet possee did not let the issue lie and Coca-Cola announced yesterday that they were pulling the campaign and launching an investigation to establish what had happened. A spokesperson for Coca-Cola said:

It has been brought to our attention that the Dr Pepper promotion on Facebook posted an offensive status update. We apologise for any offence caused. As soon as we became aware of this, we took immediate action and removed the status update from the application. We have also taken the decision to end the promotion. We will take all steps necessary to ensure this does not happen again.”

Dr Pepper UK has now got over 167,000 fans on their Facebook page. The majority of comments on the brand’s wall are hugely positive, praising the competition mechanism and requesting that Coca-Cola resurrect the competition.

One poster on Facebook said: “How lame. The parent who complained shouldn’t have let their 14 year old daughter be on Facebook in the first place!” – and they have a point. The competition had an opt-in mechanism meaning that the Facebook user had to enter the competition and allow the application to access their profile. This 14 year old chose to enter the competition. However the competition was open to all Facebook users of all ages and therefore needed to walk the line between what would be mildly humorous to a broad demographic and what is inacceptable. Coca-Cola crossed that line during this campaign – moving from the embarrassing comments to the vulgar.

Although there has been some negative coverage in some quarters, those that truly matter to the brand…the consumer…loved the competition, flocked to ‘like’ the brand’s page and are now shouting for the competition to ‘come back’. Those whose interest has been piqued by the negative coverage have visited the Facebook page and potentially the YouTube channel and have been exposed to key messaging and, like me, saw the outpouring of praise for the initiative. So was this campaign a success or a failure?

No doubt some Coca-Cola marketers are being dragged over hot coals as I write, trying to answer that very question as the powers that be ‘investigate’ as to the staff/agency person with a penchant for ‘Two Girls One Cup’!

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