You’ve done all the necessary research and preparations for your ad campaign, and you’re sure it's going to be a hit with your target audience. But then for some reason, your campaign just doesn’t land, and your audience has an unexpected negative reaction. You may even start to lose some customers. Even when you prepare, the unfortunate reality is that even all the forethought in the world can’t always prevent a negative reaction to an ad.
If your latest campaign doesn’t get the intended reaction or is poorly-received by consumers, it can be frustrating and anxiety-inducing -- but there’s no need to panic. First, take a deep breath. Then, try these six strategies from Ad Age Collective members to recover from the backlash and get your brand image back where you want it to be.
1. Try to catch it early with social listening tools.
Using the right tools can help you catch an ad that does badly early on. Social media listening and sentiment analysis tools will monitor online content that may be impossible to manage manually. Invest in these tools and make it a practice to use them and understand what people are saying in relation to a brand. Doing so will help you manage PR effectively and quickly. - Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
2. Be human about it.
Sometimes the best brands and advertisements have negative and unintended consequences or associations. Most recently, Planters killed off Mr. Peanut days before Kobe Bryant passed. In difficult times, advertising is no different than life. Be human, act with kindness, do the right thing, explain your actions and do something that truly shows you care equally for your brand and your audience. - Lana McGilvray, Purpose Worldwide
3. Don't overreact.
In today's 24/7 social media frenzy, it's tempting to constantly be justifying your company's actions to the wider public. This temptation is intensified when the reaction is negative, but it pays to not overreact. With today's consumer being constantly burdened with messages, you may be able to wait until the reaction blows over. At worst, you give yourself time to construct a composed statement. - Patrick Ward, Rootstrap
4. Address it head-on.
If an ad inadvertently causes a negative reaction from an audience, it is important to address the negativity head-on by apologizing or retracting the message. - Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising
5. Let your audience know you're listening.
Don't just bury your head in the sand and hope the tide turns. Be proactive and let your audience know you are listening to them. Gather input, ask questions and state your case. If a change is warranted, be quick but thoughtful. You can't make everyone happy, but you can make sure everyone feels like you care. - Maggie O'Neill, Peppercomm
6. Consider whether there's a positive spin to the publicity.
The "Silence Sucks" campaign by CHX for Sage Therapeutics is objectively one of the most compelling campaigns in pharma. The goal was to raise awareness of under-recognized postpartum depression. But when the mommy bloggers picked it up, their reaction was much different than was anticipated. The outcome: a media tornado that fueled unpaid social and broadcast press. Good? Bad? It got people talking. - Kristen Anna Roeckle, Concentric Health Experience