After the controversy surrounding the death of Eric Garner and the grand jury denial of the indictment of police officer Daniel Pantaleo, Walmart has made some serious changes to its current advertising efforts.
In a Walmart Mobile Family Plan ad that has been airing for roughly five months, a young girl hugs her father so hard he says, “I can’t breathe.” The phrase has become a rally cry for protestors after video of Garner’s arrest surfaced. Once it began receiving negative attention and feedback on Twitter, Walmart quickly pulled the ad, edited it and rereleased it with different messaging. Socially fueled current events are forcing advertisers to think on their feet, but the need for constant adaptation in the wake of tragedy causes some companies to fall flat.
After an Australian tennis coach was convicted on child sex charges in 2004, Nike was forced to pull their TV ad, which featured young girls flirting with their tennis coach. The withdrawal of the multimillion-dollar campaign was imperative following protests by Australian children’s groups. Even brand giants like Nike are forced to change approved, long-standing campaigns when current events get in the way.
Advertising that can be seen as exploitative or insensitive has the potential to ruin an organization’s reputation, in an instant. That’s why your company must always have a team ready to respond. As a brand, being proactive, instead of reactive, is always the smarter choice.
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