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#Disaster – 5 of the Worst Hashtag Campaign Catastrophes

Tweeted, Mistreated, Deleted.

We all love a good train-wreck. Not a real one, those are terrible, if you love those then you’re probably either a Batman villain or harbor some violent, irrational hatred of public transport. Either way, seek help. As far as metaphorical train-wrecks go, those are a lot of fun. It might be a woefully misjudged live performance, an award acceptance speech gone horribly wrong or, particularly in recent years, a hashtag campaign that really ought never to have moved past the office whiteboard.

Most of the campaigns that backfire in a major way are corporate, seeing as large corporations are easy to bash and often give people plenty of reasons to engage in said bashing, but celebrities, TV shows, bands and even (and especially) governments have opened themselves up to a good Twitter-based flogging in the past. Here are 5 of the best/worst examples:

5: #AskBG – British Gas

Open up the floor to customer/public questions on a platform like Twitter is a bad idea, universally, even the Dalai Lama would be ill-advised to attempt it, but for a gas company? Utterly suicidal. Perplexingly though, British Gas decided to do it anyway.

In October 2013, the company opened up the floor for a Twitter Q&A day under the above hashtag. Unwise in and of itself, but they elected to do this on the same day that they had hiked their residential energy prices up by 10%. I can’t even. I suppose I don’t really have to tell you what happened next, but I will. The company were almost universally lambasted in the form of brutal (mostly) rhetorical questions which painted them as money-grubbing fat-cats.

"We always value interaction with our customers." They said, after the campaign ended. Pass the salt.

4: #WhyIStayed – DiGiorno
You might recognise that hashtag, it did the rounds around October/November of last year in a very noble, non-embarrassing context. It references a tragic incident which involved footage being circulated of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice brutally attacking his fiancée in a casino elevator. The story threw the entire NFL into a flurry of bad publicity as sharp questions about how domestic abuse incidents are handled by them. The #WhyIStayed campaign was launched by writer Beverly Gooden to combat the slew of victim blaming and misogyny that emanated from the story.

Sadly the pizza chain DiGiorno didn’t know that, or at least I really, really hope they didn’t. While the campaign was at its highest point, the company tweeted the tag with the response ‘You had pizza’. Give yourself a minute for your lips to stop curling. Realising the blunder, they almost immediately took the tweet down and profusely apologised for any offense that might have been caused. Still though, yikes.

3: #Cairo – Kenneth Cole

If you’re confused as to exactly what Cairo has to do with Kenneth Cole, don’t be, because the answer is nothing. Well, almost nothing. You probably remember that a few years back Egypt was in the grip of a fierce, often violent revolution. It wasn’t a cheery subject and clearly not one to be made light of, yet the fashion designer (or whatever berk runs his Twitter) decided it would be somehow wise to jump on the hashtag bandwagon and use the unrest as part of a joke/plug for the spring sale.

Like the DiGiorno blunder this one didn’t stay active for very long, after the fashion giant weathered a storm of rebuking from furious users who had been eying the trending tag. A stern reminder that the internet isn’t written in pencil.

2: #1MillionPatriots – The New England Patriots

This is perhaps the most innocent of the 5, but not necessarily in a good way. The page for the New England Patriots had hit 1 million fans and being the nice guys that they are (HA!) they decided to say thank you. All fans had to do was retweet a post they’d put up daubed with the above hashtag and it would be regenerated with an image of a Patriots ‘1’ jersey featuring their Twitter handle as the name.

Facepalms, large facepalms, many facepalms. Facepalmtree. As you might have guessed, it didn’t exactly go according to plan. You see, some people are quite creative with their Twitter names, some people are more than a little obscene. Some are both. Within hours of the campaign launching dozens of images of the jersey emblazoned with all manner of filth began to circulate and one in particular which wasn’t just rude, it was deeply, deeply offensive. Add that to the list of Patriots foul-ups, if you can find room.

1: #RedSkinsPride – The Washington Redskins
Of course, if you’re talking about NFL teams making massive, massive mistakes in the realm of social media, it’s impossible to ignore the Redskins. Towards the beginning of the 2014 season NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was petitioned by 50 US senators to change the name of the Washington Redskins because of the distinctly anti-Native American sentiment suggested by the term. The trademarks were dropped and one senator in particular, Harry Reid went on a major offensive to convince owner Dan Snyder to finally re-brand the historic team.

It was around this time that the Redskins did the worst thing they could possibly do and tried to fight back, on frigging Twitter. They encouraged fans to tweet at Reid about why the team should be allowed to keep their appalling name under the hashtag #RedSkinsPride.  

Almost immediately the ill-advised campaign was buried beneath a barrage of response tweets slamming both the team and Snyder for desperately clinging to their unfortunate moniker. The name still has yet to get changed, but the team has yet to recover from the worst publicity it’s ever had.

Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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#Disaster – 5 of the Worst Hashtag Campaign Catastrophes Reviewed by Unknown on Wednesday, April 22, 2015 Rating: 5
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