Electric supercar brand Tesla’s logo looks uncannily like… the humble contraceptive coil.
Most people who read this blog, follow me on Twitter or know me in real life remember the time I had a somewhat high-profile disagreement with Hyundai.
For those who didn’t see it, Hyundai made a really badly-judged ad that showed someone trying to commit suicide in one of their cars, and failing because the car only emits water. As I commented at the time, there were many more creative and interesting ways to deliver this message without sucker-punching people who’ve lost loved ones to suicide, or showing them how to do it (there were details in the ad that would help people die effectively).
Honda – a brand I’ve worked on and have a huge soft spot for – have just come out with their answer to the water-emissions brief. And isn’t this just a world away from someone ending his life?
Honda-branded bottled water, created entirely from the emissions of their FCX model.
Simple. Effective. And it didn’t make me cry.
Wasn’t so hard, was it?
If you like:
– English actors badly delivering Americanised dialogue (“Open it already!” “Bro” “Like a BAWSS”)
– Seeing a man awkwardly snog his own hand
– Hand-beards that look like pubic hair
– The film ‘How to Get Ahead in Advertising’ (the one where Richard E. Grant has a sarcastic talking pimple)
Then you must love this ad for LG’s G Flex phone.
Otherwise, please feel free to join me in a chorus of “What. The. BUGGERY?!”
Edit: this has been pulled from LG’s official channel so I’ve replaced the video above. The internet never forgets.
Update: in one of the quickest backtracks ever, Twitter has reversed the changes (see their blog post here). We won! #RestoreTheBlock
The rest of the post will remain below as a record of what happened.
Today, Twitter made a small but incredibly significant change to the way blocking users works on the site. In their own words:
The bit in blue is the really crucial part. Previously, blocking someone meant that they automatically unfollowed you, and if they went to your page, they couldn’t see any of your tweets, photos, videos, links – anything.
Now, since people with unprotected accounts (and I would argue that most people should have unprotected accounts on a social website) tweet publicly, you could get around someone blocking you by logging out and viewing their profile, viewing it in an incognito window, or even making a whole new account if you were bothered enough. People defending Twitter’s new block stance keep trotting this out as a reason why the change doesn’t matter.
In my experience, most of the people dim enough to get themselves blocked by me were nowhere near smart enough to know that they could still see my tweets by logging out. And even if they did, it’s a lot more effort than your average troll is going to go to.
With the new policy, for the blockee, nothing changes when they get blocked. They can’t tell they’ve been blocked, they still see your tweets in their timeline, they can still retweet you and tweet at you – it’s just that you don’t see these in your Interactions column anymore.
I have to ask… what the hell, Twitter?
Have you never been harassed?
Have you never had a person obsess about you to the point that you wished you’d never met them?
Have you never wished someone would just. Go. Away?
One of the very best things about social media is the ability to make people disappear at will. That probably sounds a bit Stalin if you’ve never been hassled, but when you’ve had someone follow you for a long time, carefully amassing information that they can use to tear down everything you hold dear – you start to understand why the power behind that little ‘Block’ button meant so much. Even if it was only superficial, clicking that button felt like putting up a shield, and that feeling makes all the difference when you’re being targeted.
Here’s an example. Earlier this year, when my Hyundai blog post went viral, I got four blog comments from the same troll. From what he wrote, it was pretty clear he’d followed me on Twitter for a long time and knew a lot about me – although only things I’d been willing to share on the site.
So after reading about the suicide of my father and how an advert reminding me of it had moved me to tears, he wrote this:
You are a sick fuck for using your old man’s mental illness and subsequent suicide to coldly further your own career in advertising. Fortunately your book says more than “Boo hoo my dad is dead” whining, and your book says one thing: “I am a shit creative”
Fuck you and die you fat ginger cunt. No wonder you can’t get a job, or a boyfriend.
Yesterday, I could have blocked this person from seeing anything I wrote on Twitter ever again. Today, I can’t.
I can only assume the people who work at Twitter are lucky enough to never have been stalked, trolled, or harassed by strangers – or worse, people they knew – on the internet. I’ve long railed against the fact that you can’t block people on LinkedIn (a creepy ex-boyfriend still likes to look up my page every so often, and I can’t stop him) but this is actually worse. Twitter had that functionality, and chose to take it away.
Why would you do that? Who’s benefiting here? People who’ve been complete and utter tosspots to other human beings, and… that’s it. I fail to see how this in any way improves the service for non-trolls. Please, someone enlighten me.
Last week, Kelloggs UK tweeted something they’ve been regretting ever since:
Twitter users were quick to pounce, calling Kellogg’s out for what they saw as a cynical attempt to promote themselves through emotional blackmail:
Kellogg’s pulled the tweet and apologised twice – once blaming the “wrong use of words” and one more comprehensive apology after the first one was badly received.
But all this left me wondering why Kelloggs’ campaign was so reviled when Pampers have been doing essentially the same thing – to widespread praise – for the best part of a decade:
The Pampers/Unicef “one pack = one vaccine” campaign has been running for eight years, with messaging explaining that for every pack sold, Procter & Gamble will “provide UNICEF with funding for one life-saving tetanus vaccine to protect a mother and her newborn in the developing world.”
Twitter barely existed when the campaign launched at Christmas in 2006, but surely if this approach was so abhorrent, other media outlets would have risen up in the same way? Hardly. In fact, far from a backlash, the Harvard Business Review comments that “consumer enthusiasm has been so strong that the partners now expect the disease will be eliminated, as measured by World Health Organization standards, by 2015.”
The most I could find in terms of dissenting opinion was one abandoned Facebook page complaining that $0.07 is not a high enough donation considering the pack price. Where are all the angry people saying “Wait, so if we don’t buy your nappies, you’ll let a child die of tetanus? You monsters!”.
So why the difference?
Why were Kellogg’s berated and forced to apologise while P&G are held up as an example of a generous corporation?
My instinct is that it comes down to the medium. A retweet is a purely promotional entity – it doesn’t serve any purpose other than promoting the tweet and the tweeter. Buying a pack of nappies, on the other hand, is something people do anyway – not to promote the brand, but simply to care for their baby. So the Pampers campaign is seen as an attractive extra – you’re already buying these nappies, why not help while you’re at it? While the Kellogg’s campaign is seen as “advertise us and we’ll do something nice”.
The difference is really immaterial, though, because the intention at both companies is the same. Pampers gets more people buying their nappies than the competing brand, and Kellogg’s gets promoted into people’s timelines. There’s a clear business benefit in both cases, so the difference is entirely on the consumer’s side – doing something they’d do anyway versus feeling used.
There’s also an element of precedent. The idea of buying something to help a cause is deeply entrenched in society – the charity cake sale, the face cream with the pink ribbon packaging – whereas using throwaway social media interactions to help a cause is associated with chain emails and manipulative, spammy Facebook posts.
At their core, both campaigns are exactly the same, and both have merit in my view. Neither organisation had any obligation to do something for vulnerable people, and lord knows they’re doing more than most companies. The difference is purely in the way they’ve gone about it. Perhaps Pampers can learn from Kellogg’s experience and avoid extending their offline campaign into social.
Good thing they haven’t just launched a “1 view = 1 vaccine” campaign on their YouTube videos then, isn’t it?
Here we go again.
Update: looks like Private Eye agree with me:
Photo courtesy of the brilliant BetaRish
How many times do brands have to backpedal and apologise before things like this stop happening?
How many times do we have to say “don’t slap your brand all over tragedies”? How many times do we have to ask who approved using mass grief to sell products? How many more times?
Retweeting is not a way to pay your respects
Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist when 9/11 happened, and it’s hard to imagine what the reaction would have been like if they had. The volume of grief and disbelief might well have crashed Twitter. But while it’s perfectly OK to tweet that you’re thinking of the people who lost their lives, this kind of thing is not:
This year, an account sprang up just to do that. It already has eight thousand followers despite its four tweets. It appears to have no association with any of the victims’ charities, and it’s not accomplishing anything. All it does is ask for retweets. It’s a parasite, frankly.
Just in case anyone is unclear on this, retweeting does not in any way show respect to the dead, or ease the grief of their families. Asking for retweets is a shameless, selfish way to promote your own account and nothing more. If you want to pay your respects, pay them. Send up a prayer, visit the memorial, or by all means tweet your sentiments. But adding “Retweet to show respect” strips your message of any humanity, and turns it from a genuine statement of grief to a shameless plug for you.
Probably the most egregious example of this was perpetrated by MSN when BeeGee Robin Gibb died:
That call to action actually makes me shudder. How can anyone reduce grieving for the dead into such a mindless, meaningless action? And how do brand and community managers of huge, worldwide companies keep making this mistake? Why is it always down to the twitter community to point out the huge failing of humanity here?
I thought AT&T’s inevitable apology might provide some explanation of what they were thinking.
Clearly, what they were thinking was that their image of a great big honking smartphone taking up the foreground of the tribute to a mass grave was somehow “paying respect”.
Somehow, I doubt the families of the fallen would agree.
1. The ‘Do it for me’
These people drive me nuts. Instead of taking two seconds to Google something that is clearly well-known (or I wouldn’t have mentioned it), they expect me to write and send a potted description for them. Why? It’s slower for you and annoying for me.
My usual response to this is “What’s Google?” (which got me a “Thanks, ass” the other day), but http://lmgtfy.com also works, if you can be bothered.
2. The LET ME GOOGLE THAT FOR YOU
This is the inverse of the above. Example:
In this case, I wanted a personal recommendation. I know how to Google, dammit. I tried explaining this to someone today and she angrily told me she was personally recommending the blog list. WTF?
3. The only-tweets-women
If you go down someone’s timeline and it looks like this:
Avoid. There are plenty of these dudes and they’re creepy as hell.
4. The only-tweets-you
I’ve had quite a few of these lately, possibly as a result of having been on TV. They seem to tweet you all the time, and favourite half the things you say, so you go to their timeline, and:
I don’t know what to do with these ones. Strictly speaking, they haven’t done anything wrong, but it’s pretty weird – worth blocking? I don’t know.
5. The Linkers
Aaaargh. Don’t just send me a link with no context. I have no idea if that’s spam, malware, a giant download that’ll kill my 3G, a video that’s going to start playing out of the office speakers with no warning (why does the sound ALWAYS load before the picture?! My physics teacher told me light travelled faster than sound!), or, least likely, something I actually want to see.
Not to mention all the spambots use this method, and Twitter shortens links to unintelligible garbage by default.
If you do this, I’m not going to click your link. I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY.
Got more types of annoying tweeters? Add them in the comments.