How edgy should your social media strategy be? Bland and corporate is bad: no one looks at the viral or reads the tweets. But step over the line and you become a social laughing stock, shortly before your agency becomes redundant.
Readers will recall the notorious case of Coca-Cola and the Dr Pepper pornographic movie episode on Facebook (it’s here if you don’t). Which proved disastrous for its social media agency, Lean Mean Fighting Machine (sacked ignominiously from the Coke Zero account as well as Dr Pepper).
More recently, the risks have been highlighted by a couple of episodes over at Motown. Chrysler sacked its social media agency, New Media Strategies, after one of its employees “inadvertently” tweeted from the @ChryslerAutos account: “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to fucking drive.” It seems pretty rough justice at first sight: agency and employee victims of hypocritical puritanism. By way of explanation, Chrysler Communications staffer Ed Garsten noted shortly afterwards: “The tweet denigrated drivers in Detroit and used the fully spelled-out F-word. It was obviously meant to be posted on the person’s personal Twitter account, and not the Chrysler Brand account where it appeared. So why were we so sensitive? That commercial featuring the Chrysler 200, Eminem and the City of Detroit wasn’t just an act of salesmanship. This company is committed to promoting Detroit and its hard-working people.” That bad, eh?
How interesting, then, that Ford should put a lecherous, politically incorrect puppet, suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, behind the steering wheel of its Ford Focus US launch. Admittedly Doug – a kind of Kermit with jaundice – hasn’t used the F-word (at least, not yet) or denigrated the good people of Detroit. But he does spend a good deal of his time making a mockery of stuffy Ford executives, and doesn’t have much regard for any social conventions. So far, he’s steered the right side of edgy, “post-modern” humour (though I wonder how many of the people who like the virals would ever buy a new Focus – it’s a $17,000 car, for God’s sake, not a pair of jeans). But he’s definitely a loose cannon. How long before Doug overdoes it and simply becomes a tiresome distraction? The ultimate star, after all, is always the product.