Strap on the gas mask and button up the flame-retardant suit; the outrage on social media emitted a dangerously high temperature in 2015.
From failed advertising campaigns to discolored feces, it seemed no brand, hashtag or person was safe from controversy. Let’s examine what pissed people off.
Nationwide’s “depressing” Super Bowl commercial
The Super Bowl is a time for fun and food, not death and sadness. Nationwide Insurance spoiled the good times with its pricey — and upsetting! — ad about all the things this young boy will never experience because he’s dead.
Here’s a refresher:
Understandably, there was backlash online.
And I will NEVER buy ANYTHING from nationwide. WTF was THAT all about?
— Homeless Zack G. (@HomelessZack) February 2, 2015
It even forced the company to issue a statement explaining itself, saying it was meant “to start a conversation, not sell insurance.” Accomplishment achieved.
Starbucks #RaceTogether flops
This is one of those times when the intentions were good, but the execution was off.
Starbucks encouraged employees to write the hashtag on customers’ cups to get them talking about race issues. Turns out, that’s an awkward proposition, especially for busy baristas during the morning rush. The Internet didn’t react kindly either.
— Nerdy Wonka (@NerdyWonka) March 17, 2015
— April (@ReignOfApril) March 17, 2015
Acknowledging that “there has been criticism” surrounding the initiative, Starbucks ended it a few days after it began.
Bud Light’s rapey “Up For Whatever” tagline
In April, Bud Light practiced the “write drunk, edit sober” methodology, except that it forgot to do the last part. It printed the tagline “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night #UpForWhatever” on bottles, igniting a wave of criticism online from people saying it promotes rape culture.
— Nita Lowey (@NitaLowey) April 28, 2015
Bud Light apologized, admitting the “message missed the mark.”
Spotify’s sudden logo change
It was one of those changes that you couldn’t quite tell what was off, but you knew something. Spotify garnered attention in June for sneakily changing the color of its logo from green to another shade of green, setting off a flurry of confused tweets:
spotify just updated their app icon color and completely ruined the harmony of my home screen gonna take like hours for my eyes to adjust
— Elias Liedholm (@eliasliedholm) June 15, 2015
Spotify said the change was needed to add “a little more pop” to its rebranding, and somehow the world didn’t fly off its axis.
The Fat Jew’s reckoning
The Fat Jew, the nom de Internet of Josh Ostrovsky, had parlayed his Instagram account based on stolen jokes and memes into a a full-fledged entertainment career. In 2015, though, he saw his shady past finally catch up to him. A writer called Ostrovsky out on the day he was signed by a major talent agency for jacking jokes from her.
She was angry that he’s making a lot of money off content he didn’t create: “This man makes nothing, contributes nothing, originates nothing, he is a leech, he is a virus, he is what is wrong with the world.”
Others chimed in:
Now I kinda feel bad because @FATJEW didn’t steal from me. I gotta step up my instagram game
— Paul Scheer (@paulscheer) August 16, 2015
While he didn’t lose any sponsorship money, his reputation did take a hit.
Jessica Alba’s sunscreen scam
Hell hath no fury like an angry mother. In the heat of the summer, customers of Alba’s Honest Company discovered that her brand’s sunscreen wasn’t working. “This was NOT a user error, this is a product fail,” one mother charged on her Facebook account, putting the company in defensive mode over the effectiveness of the sunscreen.
An investigation found that the company drastically reduced the product’s zinc, thus diminishing its effectiveness. Despite that, it put out a statement saying it stands “behind the safety and efficacy of this product.” Just don’t tell anyone who used it.
Twitter’s Blue Dot backlash
For people to use something new, they have to notice it. In October, Twitter launched Moments, its curated content tab, and added a blue dot next to its icon. The problem? People were accustomed to seeing a blue dot when there was new activity around their feed — so they felt as if they were being tricked into tapping on the Moments tab. They were unamused.
No, blue dot. I’m not clicking on “moments”.
— josh groban (@joshgroban) October 12, 2015
Twitter dropped the dot a few weeks after but reignited the anger when it swapped the Moments tab with Notifications. Oy gevalt.
Starbucks “Red Cups” controversy
Stirred up. Brewed. Frothed. Whatever trite pun you want to call it, Starbucks was steamed (that’s a good one) about a mindbogglingly stupid nontroversy that started on Facebook by a popular Christian evangelist complaining that its holiday red cups weren’t Christmas enough. Or something.
“Do you realize that Starbucks wanted to take Christ and Christmas off of their brand new cups? That’s why they’re just plain red,” he said. First, there was the outrage perpetuated by him, then the outrage against the outrage, then the think pieces about the outrage, then the made-up outrage about Dunkin’ Donuts holiday cups, which were not, in fact, a retaliation.
The way this unfurled perfectly encapsulated all of 2015’s outrage cycle in one.
As destination travel takes off, the ‘Big Easy’ is experimenting with AR/VR to draw visitors
As travel, and travel tourism, return to pre-pandemic levels, New Orleans is leveraging AR/VR technology marketing to stand out and capture more traveler attention.
Why companies like iHeartMedia, NBCU rely on homegrown IP to build metaverse engagements
The success of recent brand activations is evidence that media and entertainment brands are the companies best equipped to build metaverse spaces that can dodge online skepticism, thanks to their wealth of owned IP.
How sunglasses brand Quay retooled its advertising to be less reliant on performance marketing following iOS changes
Prior to the iOS changes, Quay was spending the majority of its ad dollars on performance marketing tactics and influencer marketing.
SponsoredHow FAST channels are redefining primetime opportunities for advertisers
What beauty brand Fenty can gain from Rihanna’s Super Bowl halftime show
Following a roughly six-year hiatus from music, Rihanna is returning to headline the NFL Super Bowl halftime show. The residual effects for her Fenty brand will be paramount.
Skills shortages and legal uncertainty curtail marketers’ in-house ambitions for programmatic
IAB Europe survey reveals a significant in-housing slowdown with only 16% of marketers employing it as a model for programmatic trading.