We’ve seen them happen all before. Plane crashes, tsunamis, assassination, hurricanes – all tragedies have that have rocked our world. Whilst some of these subjects can be very touchy, some of these events have been portrayed and even taken advantage of by digital marketing and advertisements. Why would advertisers do this?
It all relates back to our ultra-competitive marketing environment of the 21st century. Although some companies have tried to aid in these times of need, such as EXAMPLE, there are many that use these disasters to advertise for their own advantage. Whether this is to benefit the brand by creating a favourable image, create controversy or just plain distasteful, here are three examples of when companies digitally cashed in on disasters, otherwise known as ‘Griefsploitation‘:
AT&T and 9/11: although over a decade has passed since the 9/11 tragedy, which saw almost 3000 people perish, our grief towards this event has never faded. However, in 2013, mobile phone carrier AT&T decided to integrate this tragedy into their twitter advertisement, in it we see someone holding a smartphone (AT&T’s main source of revenue) up to take a photo of the 9/11 memorial. Although the tweet was pulled within an hour and an apology was made, it left a very sour taste in many peoples mouths
- Redbull and the Titanic: the sinking of this ship has created an almost modern-day fable, with movies, tv shows and books recreating this event. However, a red bull youtube advertising which recreated the events caused quite some controversy. The advertisement suggested that if the passengers of the Titanic had wings, they all could have survived – incorporating Red bulls “give you wings” slogan into it. The advertisement was pulled after it received 110 complaints
Urban Outfitters and the Kent State University shooting: In 1970 the Ohio NationalGuard stormed the Kent State University campus killing four and injuring seven. Almost four decades after this tragic event, Urban outfitters incorporated a reference to this disaster in the clothing. A pink sweatshirt, which was advertised on their website and twitter, feature the ent state university establishment as well as a faux blood stain on the front. After an uproar was caused on many social media sites, including Buzzfeed, Urban Outfitters decided to pull the shirt from there line.
Thus I leave you readers to comment whether you think these advertisements were, in fact, a tribute to this event or tasteless marketing?