Snack company Walkers Crisps has been given a harsh lesson in the dangers of opening up an advertising campaign to social media mischief-makers.
The Leicester-based company announced its #WalkersWave competition yesterday, inviting people to reply to one of its tweets with a selfie for a chance to win tickets to the UEFA Champions League Final in Cardiff a week tomorrow.
Just for taking the time to do this, entrants would receive a personalised video showing TV presenter and face of Walkers Gary Lineker proudly holding a picture of them, and then their face appearing in a crowd of football fans performing a ‘Walkers Wave’.
The only problem was that the campaign seemed to attract one or two questionable characters who seemed to want to get their hands on tickets to the Juventus vs. Real Madrid clash. Either that or some individuals thought that it was an opportunity to have a giggle at Walkers’ and Lineker’s expense.
One of the prank videos can still be seen on the Metro website, and involves a supposed entrant who anybody from the Liverpool area might recognise as Akinwale Arobieke, or ‘Purple Aki’. Known locally for his large frame and history of peculiar behaviour, the idea of Aki taking part in a Mexican wave and receiving a “nice selfie!” compliment from Lineker suddenly changes the campaign from fun and novel, to surreal and inappropriate.
Several other “entries” were in even poorer taste, as Twitter troublemakers began to send Walkers pictures of criminals and disgraced celebrities, eventually prompting the crisp company’s social media team to pull the plug on the competition and delete all tweets relating to it.
We recognise people were offended by irresponsible & offensive posts & we apologise. We are equally upset & have shut the activity down.
— Walkers Crisps (@walkers_crisps) May 25, 2017
Meanwhile, Lineker, an avid Twitter user himself, managed to see some dry humour in the events.
Had an unusual day in some very strange company. I'm sure we'll wave goodbye to them all by tomorrow.
— Gary Lineker 💙 (@GaryLineker) May 25, 2017
In an era when outbreaks of silliness can gather pace and support at lightning speed, Walkers are not the first company to see their social media campaign go viral for the wrong reasons. Two years ago, Penguin Books saw its poorly thought out #YourMum Mother’s Day campaign backfire. Other examples of what can happen if you give the general public the opportunity to choose something ridiculous include Boaty McBoatface, the ‘Dub the Dew’ campaign and the US Presidential Election.
Another way of looking at it is that this is all publicity, even if it’s short-lived and unglamorous. Would Walkers Crisps be in the news today if the campaign had run smoothly?
Another question to ask is whether Walkers will actually honour the original competition and include these dodgy entrants in the draw. I suppose we’ll only know the answer to that if we see Purple Aki in the crowd on June 3.