Has the Naughty Elf gone too far – where is the line in social campaigns

Ever since Doctor Pepper posted to a fourteen year olds Facebook page

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

There are just some lines on social media, not if you are a brand like coca-cola, but where is that line and just how close to it can you get – more info on econsultancy 

This Christmas, Poundland have gone pretty much as close to the line as you can imagine -the naughty elf is, well from t-bagging to “ … don’t tell Rudolph I’ve found a new piece of ass” – I am not sure how many complaints there have been but certainly Twinings Tea didn’t see the funny side when its brand was used, that image seems to have been swapped out already.

Funeral Bookers made a point using controversy that the costs of cremation are challenging when you are grieving the total cost of cremation can vary considerably and be filled with unexpected extras – and they do a good job of explaining the costs. I do however love the attention to detail in this April Fools – if you are planning on doing one, do it like this – https://funeralbooker.com/home-cremation This campaign was shortlisted for one of the UK Search Awards.

More infamously Ford produced a couple of ads for the evil twin “Ford Ka” which, whilst the bird one seemed acceptable the cat one, was universally considered wrong, cat decapitation apparently is definitely the wrong side of the line

So what has the naughty elf done

Well besides what he did with Santas toothbrush, and well, other unspeakable acts he has made Poundland “Trend” in Google Trends, interestingly search volume for Twinings and Tea Bagging have also increased…

Google Trends – Poundland

Their twitter account jumped from 85k followers to 107k followers in two days – which is undoubtedly making someone smile (not Twinings obviously who disliked the background in the t-bagging being a box of Twinings Tea). Thanks to Dan Barker who is the insight master on this sort of thing

I know what you are thinking, Poundland tape doesn’t usually stick that well

“…the only real differentiator between this being a brilliant but cynical way to gain lots of links for SEO, and a bad PR move, is whether they are aware of, and counting on, the fallout and controversy.

We know that in the age of social media, news and opinion is not merely a never-ending stream, but a surging current that carries things just as swiftly away. No matter how strong the opinion on the campaign is this week, or next, in six months time nobody will care – but all the brand mentions and links will remain on articles people are no longer reading.

Indeed, if smart and cynical enough, the company might be hoping to cause enough outrage that they make the major news outlets cite them and link to their campaign. All they need do, judging from all prior fallout from the most astoundingly disastrous PR issues, is simply claim to have fired someone responsible for going too far (and they could even invent a fake person just to sack, or hire a very willing person for that role) and they can gain even more publicity and citations, with effectively no lasting damage to their repute.

Either way, it will get recorded as a gaffe, a bit of a naive move by Poundland, and all those extra links have been gained, and will remain, long after the incident itself has been forgotten and everyone is busy talking about the next brand’s gaffe. It’s up to you whether you take that story at face value, or allow for a bit more cynicism…” Ammon Johns http://ammonjohns.com


“…It’s interesting to see a usually tame brand projecting onto a cheeky character to push the boundaries in their marketing. Personally I’m convinced it’s a genius campaign for the launch of their new not-Toblerone, Twin Peaks. By being daring and a little more than risqué, they’ll attract new followers who are just there for the elf posts, but also expose them to mass postings for their new product. Poundland is generally the go-to place to buy a Toblerone – and after their recent legal battle around Twin Peaks, is this just an elaborate and genius revenge campaign?

Passive aggressive speculations aside, it’s a bold move from Poundland designed to get noticed, but it’s taken 3 weeks for it to get widespread press. A little PR earlier on could have driven more last minute stocking filler sales….” Laura Parsons – Co-Founder of Luku Creative, a Brighton creative agency that specialises in purpose-driven organisations, providing accessible and effective marketing services.

Rick, Gerry & Omi

“In my opinion, a little online controversy is never bad for business. When you think about it in many ways, doing business online is a popularity contest. All companies around the globe know this fact and invest heavily in PR teams for that very reason. Companies who want to trade online recognise that their relevance in the marketplace is only as great as the number of people who notice they exist.

While attention normally leads to more clients and therefore is essential to the survival of a business, the chase for attention sometimes leads to irresponsible decisions that can irreversibly damage a company’s reputation. Only time will tell if Poundland Elf’s campaign will bring any real benefits to the company or not.

We all tend to think morally of ourselves but at the end of the day, a pound is a pound. We tend to go for the most affordable products and as long as Poundland’s PR team has done the necessary research probably the people that are making the noise on the internet are not their target customers anyway.” – Omi Sido, Digital Marketer


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