Socially Retarded: Big Business and Online Media

It’s a sad world in the blogosphere! It seems like social media – once the platform for University/office procrastination, then the mechanism for commercial public relations management- has again evolved.

For a small while, corporate Facebook and Twitter pages allowed key stakeholders to communicate their attitudes, beliefs, wants, needs and fears to a company who for the first time seemed to care. They provided a two-way communication model for smart companies to tweak their products and services to match what the people wanted.

However as the juggernaught that is social media has taken off, it seems every company on the market place is attempting to jump on the bandwagon…and falling abysmally short.

Toyota’s “Clever Film Competition” supported by Saatchi & Saatchi saw entrants posting videos in an attempt at starting a viral ad campaign. One video – “Clean Getaways” was laden with sexual innuendo and borderline explicit language and has sparked outrage as featuring undertones of sexism and incest (See full article on Mumbrella). Yet Toyota stands by this ad claiming it is “clever” and” funny”. If Toyota is trying to be edgy and relevant it has completely overshot its mark.

Which brings me to Westpac. The condescending Westpac “banana smoothie” video has been slammed as one of the biggest PR disasters of 2009. The scandal, now known as “bananagate” saw Westpac customers linked to an instructional animation with the opening lines “Once upon a time…”. The video compared interest rates to banana smoothies and was an attempt to justify their interest rate rise nearly double that of the Reserve bank.

Westpac, who it seems were spurred on by the marketing catch cries “viral marketing” and “word of mouth”, decided to run with the ad. They have shown the marketplace a classic example as to why the use of social media for commercial gain rather than as a two-way communication tool can send your company bananas. And Toyota? Lets just say they are going to have to bend over and take what is coming…



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