Book of Tens 2011

Marketing's Biggest Social-Media Blunders of 2011

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When a photo of his nether regions was tweeted from his account to a Seattle woman in May, Anthony Weiner insisted that he had been hacked. But the scrutiny continued, and the powerful New York congressman -- who had been considered the front-runner in the 2013 New York City mayoral election -- was forced to admit that he had sent the photo himself. He resigned from the House of Representatives after 12 years in office.

Dissing Detroit Drivers
A New Media Strategies employee dropped the F-bomb in a March tweet from @ChryslerAutos ("I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to fucking drive"). Chrysler had just launched an "Imported from Detroit" campaign along with a Super Bowl ad. The staffer was fired, but Chrysler announced it wouldn't renew the agency's contract.

Kenneth Cole Puts Shoe in Mouth
The retailer stirred up trouble when he tried to ride the coattails of the Arab Spring social-media phenomenon with this February tweet: "Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online." Tone-deafness, or a calculated move by a company known for sometimes-controversial advertising?

Credit: Fred Harper

Gottfried Gets the Hook
Gilbert Gottfried lost his gig as the voice of the Aflac duck after posting jokes about the tsunami on his Twitter account. (A sampling: "Japan called me. They said, "Maybe those jokes are a hit in the U.S., but over here they're all sinking.' ") The comic's quips were particularly off-base given that the insurance giant reportedly earned 75% of its 2010 revenues in Japan.

Qantas Grounds Dreams
The Australian airline had awful timing in launching a Twitter contest in November in which it asked followers to describe their "dream luxury in-flight experience" and pledged to award top tweeters with pajamas and toiletries. Qantas and its unions had stopped contract talks the day before, and customers were still smarting from the grounding of the entire fleet in October. They retaliated by hijacking the campaign's hashtag, #QantasLuxury, generating thousands of angry tweets.

Shooting an Elephant
The largest U.S. web domain registry company, GoDaddy, was subject to massive backlash after its CEO, Bob Parsons, tweeted a link to a video of himself shooting an elephant in Zimbabwe. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals led an effort urging a boycott of GoDaddy, and competitors tried to capitalize by offering discounted transfer rates and even making donations to elephant charities. But,, although the outcry was loud, GoDaddy seemed to emerge unscathed.

Every conceivable thing seemed to go wrong for Netflix when it announced in September its plan to spin off its DVD-rental service into a separate site called Qwikster. The company also failed to obtain the Twitter handle @Qwikster, operated by a foul-mouthed stoner who enjoyed his newfound celebrity in a series of tweets. Netflix killed Qwikster three weeks later, but 800,000 subscribers wound up quitting the service in the third quarter.

Kutcher Has Paterno's Back
"Two and a Half Men" star Ashton Kutcher was rebuked last month after tweeting to the 8.5 million followers of his @aplusk account, "How do you fire Jo Pa? #insult #no class as a hawkeye fan I find it in poor taste." He later confessed that he wasn't up on the alleged Penn State child-abuse scandal and apologized via Twitter. But the firestorm continued, and he ultimately wrote on his blog that management of his Twitter account was being turned over to his PR team.

Micky's Big Mouth
Micky Arison, the Miami Heat owner and Carnival Cruises founder and chairman, was fined $500,000 by the NBA last month for tweeting about the lockout after the league had specifically banned it. He retweeted lockout-related posts, and in an exchange with a user accusing owners of greed, he said, "Honestly u r barking at the wrong owner." His fine was five times as big as those levied on Charlotte's Michael Jordan and Washington's Ted Leonsis for their public comments about the lockout.

Ragu Incites Backlash
The Unilever tomato sauce brand Ragu earned the wrath of fathers this fall after creating a seemingly innocuous video of moms sounding off on the haplessness of their husbands in the kitchen and sending it to prominent dad bloggers on Twitter. It didn't go viral in the way the social-marketing team had probably hoped, since some recipients of the links took to their blogs and Twitter accounts to denounce the company for hating on dads.

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