'Serial' Tweeters: Brands Joke About NPR's Podcast, With Poor Results

Best Buy Apologizes for a Tweet It Made About the Podcast

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If there was any doubt remaining about the cultural pull of NPR's "Serial" podcast, marketers have started trying to jump in on the conversation.

Best Buy was the latest brand to post a tweet about the weekly podcast, in which journalist Sarah Koenig investigates the conviction of Adnan Syed in the 1998 murder of his ex-girlfriend.

The electronics retailer actually plays a prominent role in the story. Prosecutors said in court that Mr. Syed used a a pay phone in the parking lot of a Maryland Best Buy to call for a ride on the day of his ex-girlfriend's disappearance. But Ms. Koenig was unable to corroborate that there was any pay phone in that lot.

On Thursday, the day the latest episode of "Serial" was released, Best Buy tweeted: "We have everything you need. Unless you need a pay phone. #Serial"

Best Buy later deleted the tweet and issued an apology.

Cheerios played on the words serial and cereal in a post last month. "Discovering the truth can be tough when you're hungry." That tweet has also been removed.

Even PBS' "Sesame Street" alluded to the podcast.

"Serial" has become a cultural phenomen, with millions of people having listened to the podcast.

And brands have become accustomed to making themselves part of the conversation around cultural events. Major TV and entertainment events like the Super Bowl, awards shows and NBC's live airing of the musical "Peter Pan" have become rich fodder for brands on social media.

But marketers have struggled with crossing the line of insensitivity when it comes to real-life situations, inviting criticism when they jump on events like Martin Luther King Day and Sept. 11.

And even though "Serial" listeners are no doubt entertained by the podcast, the real-life murder at its heart makes it a tough one for brands to treat as standard entertainment.

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