“I watched 2 girls one cup and felt hungry afterwards”

“What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Loose the account. That’s what.

When the very fine agency Lean Mean Fighting Machine became involved with the Dr.Pepper campaign “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” I doubt they ever imagined that it would come to this.

To give some background, Dr. Pepper and Lean Mean Fighting Machine ran a digital competition where you give over your Facebook status for the chance to win £1k each week. After all, what’s the worst that could happen? The more embarrassing you allow Dr.Pepper to be with the statuses, the more points you earn so the more likely you are to win.

However as The Guardian reported yesterday afternoon, the promotion backfired when a parent complained when it transpired that the her 14-year-old daughter’s status had been updated with a message that made direct reference to hardcore porno ‘2 Girls 1 Cup‘ (sorry, no link here, use your imagination).

Understandably Coca-Cola – holding company of Dr.Pepper – swiftly acted to quash the problem by offering the Glaswegian mum of said teen tickets in London to a West End show. D-OH! Fail number two, nice try though.

Where does that leave us?

Not in a good place as Campaign reported today; Lean Mean Fighting Machine could lose Coke after Dr Pepper Facebook fiasco.

LMFM are somewhat of an expert in launching innovative digital work. Notably for work such as Speechbreaker, Modern Foreign Languages, Chatroulette Cheerleader and work for the RAF.

I was equally a fan of this Facebook campaign: I felt the Status Takeover promotion was spot on with its audience, showing an understanding of their humour, creating a highly sharable promotion, and demonstrating genuine ingenuity in a saturated market. The WHOPPING fail was the reference to the film.

The worst did happen.

Now I’m not going to point my pencil at anyone with regards to what may or may not have happened, but it leaves us all with a hopefully temporary problem. Once clients get wind of this, they’re unlikely to be as forth-giving with their trust over such control. No marketing manager wishes to be in this situation. The status in question undoubtably should never have been signed off. Claiming ignorance won’t wash, somebody knew it’s true meaning. And as Susan Pinna said to me on twitter:

Can’t believe Coca-Cola didn’t google that film title before signing-off.

Some people have said it shows a lack of balls. I disagree; the issue is hard core porn references being sent to a 14 year old girl. It’s not a territory you want to be in, as a brand, or in court.

Can’t they utilise the publicity and make use of the status take-0ver app to issue a PR resolve rather than pull the campaign?

Act like adults (new paragraph)

I hope it sorts itself out, that apologies are made and accepted, that Mrs Rickman can come to a sensible agreement, and I hope LMFM retain the account for their otherwise strong work for the Brand. Whilst it’s not the client’s job to be aware of trends and references, the blame lies two-way here, and they both need to show confidence and trust. We’ve all crossed the line with a joke. It’s just that this was for one of the world’s biggest brands in public. I’m certain that the girl isn’t going to be scared by it, it’s not endorsing underage sex or drugs afterall, and she will probably, despite the embarrassment, forget about it soon. There’s been no meaningful offense caused, and whilst Dr.Pepper had to be told, by telling the media it’s made far more teens aware of the ‘film’ in question than would otherwise have been.

Don’t pull, push.

I agree that simply pulling the campaign looks weak. Can’t they utilise the publicity and make use of the status take-0ver app to issue a PR resolve and in their own way say sorry and make amends.

Now that would be a nice use of the technology.