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When newsjacking goes wrong

While much talk has been about newsjacking or real time marketing, the recent incident where Fish & Co had to apologise after running an ad that was deemed offensive on the Little India riots has highlighted clear stumbling blocks in this type of marketing tactic.

After causing an uproar for its ad referring to the recent Little India riots in Singapore, a spokesperson from Fish & Co has told Marketing that the ad had been posted without consent from the company and a third party administrator has been handling its social media account.

The third party has since taken full responsibility for the oversight and apologised to both Fish & Co and the public for the inconvenience caused. The spokesperson declined to reveal who this was.

Ben Lightfoot, CEO McCann Worldgroup Singapore said that given the seriousness of the event, any brand should have stayed away from associating with it. “Communications that poke fun at serious situations tend to get a lot of attention, but they tend to not win public opinion,” he added.

Ian McKee, CEO of Vocanic said that while brands have opportunities to be involved when it comes to current affairs, they need to be tasteful when doing so.

“For example when Oreo did the tweet during the States Power outage, where you can still dunk in the dark, that was clever marketing. Going forward the brand needs to take ownership and let fans hear its voice,” said McKee.

Simon Kemp, managing director of We Are Social said: “If you can’t add anything positive to the situation, you should stay away. Such misfortunes should not be made light of and brands looking to make a profit out of others misfortune will never come across positively with fans.”

Fish & Co’s ad

Just a day after the riots that happened in Little India, local seafood restaurant Fish & Co released an ad on its social media with the tagline [sic] “Stay Away From Riot & Eat Bombay Fish and Chips”.

The Facebook post also ran with the words, “Let’s all stay clam, not make speculations and just eat fish.”

Following being slammed on social media for the ad, Fish & Co released the following statement:

“Dear all,

We want to apologise to everyone whom we have offended. We did not intend to, nor did we deliberately attempt to trivialise the situation. We have taken immediate measures to remove the post once we received negative feedback from our fans – to which we are very appreciative of. Nevertheless, we take full responsibility for this. Once again, we are truly sorry and we offer our respect and sympathy to the families of all those who had fallen victim to this situation.”

When one user criticised the marketing stunt, the response from the brand was as follows:

“It is not a marketing stunt and the post was not intended to make fun of the situation. Nonetheless, we sincerely apologise for the mistake.”

To another Facebook user who asked why the management has approved such an ad, Fish & Co responded that the “image was created to look at the situation positively and not poke fun of the situation.”

However, reactions from the public have so far been mixed. While some have deemed the ad to be sensitive, others find it somewhat cheeky. Most have been receptive towards the brand’s apology.

Photo courtesy: Yahoo

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