Sunday, March 13, 2011

I swear! Profanity has no place in social media

Once again, we find ourselves dealing with someone who dropped the f-bomb in a public forum. In this case, it was an employee at New Media Strategies, a social media firm representing Chrysler. The individual was apparently in the middle of a mind-numbing drive into work and jumped onto Twitter to express his or her explicit frustration:

"I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f*¢king drive."  (this blogger substituted * and ¢)

In this person’s haste, he or she failed to check the handle to ensure he or she was logged into his or her personal account. The perp wasn’t, and the tweet went out under the Chrysler Twitter account, @chryslerautos. It wasn’t long before the mistake was realized and the tweet was deleted, but not before it was retweeted…and retweeted…and retweeted…and covered in blogs, taking it completely out of the company’s control.

And that was all she (or he) wrote. Literally. The offending individual was fired by New Media Strategies. Chrysler acted swiftly as well, firing NMS.

Ad Age published the story along with the tweet, uncensored. The  firestorm that followed in its reader comments section is quite telling, and more than a bit disturbing.

As of this writing, over 100 readers have weighed in. The majority of the early responses completely lacked any intellectual content; most merely seized the opportunity to use the offending term themselves in very banal and predictable one-liners:

“F*¢king ridiculous.”
”This is f*¢king unbelievable!”
”This is f*¢king throwing the baby out with the f*¢king bath water.”

Deep stuff guys. Is it any surprise the authors of these rich comments are all male? There’s something real macho about using the f-bomb, and it’s probably a real thrill to do so professionally amongst your peers in your industry’s premier magazine and shamelessly publish your name alongside it.


I’m not here to debate the merits of Chrysler’s decision. I’m here to take issue with advertising, marketing communications and social media professionals who think it’s acceptable, and perhaps essential, to use profane language online and undoubtedly, at work in constructive, creative and contentious discourse.


As expressed by a few thoughtful Ad Age readers, swearing has no place in corporate and marketing communications. The medium (even Twitter) and the audience (even Gen Y) do not make a difference. Profanity reflects poorly on the individual and the company. It does absolutely nothing to enhance the brand or build customer affinity.

Borrowing from an earlier post, descending to such base language smacks of a lack of respect for your client, their customers, your colleagues and yourself. It’s highly insensitive. Profanity makes many people uncomfortable. It isn’t cool and it won’t win admirers or new business. There isn’t a single argument someone can present that will convince me otherwise.

Communications professionals are to be held to a higher standard. We should possess a supreme command of the language and an expansive vocabulary. Any emotion we deem to express can and should be effectively articulated with well chosen power words.

If you are so de-sensitized to profanity that nothing shocks you and you find yourself apathetic toward the subject, then consider one irrefutable risk: as an Ad Age reader presented, in the public domain there may be legal ramifications for profane utterances for the utterer and those they represent. It is incumbent upon the communications professional and agency to protect their client. If you can’t (or won’t) discipline yourself for your own self-respect, that reason itself must prevail.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Freaky fast and freakin’ successful is no freak accident

I’m a Jimmy John’s virgin. If it weren’t for their radio ads, I wouldn’t even know they exist. Weird, because I love sub sandwiches. Anyway, I heard one of their commercials recently and I was so entertained I conducted an online search to listen to the spot again. Frustratingly, I couldn’t find the commercial in question. Gratifyingly, I found a company web page with eight radio ads posted for my enjoyment with a link to TV ads on the left and print ads on the right.

Jimmy John’s, a sub sandwich purveyor, boasts freaky fast delivery. As previously mentioned, I know very little about this company, but I dig what I’m learning. Jimmy John’s built their business and stake their reputation on fast delivery. Their integrated advertising and social media initiatives reinforce this brand promise.

I gave the eight radio spots a listen and loved them all. The distinct voices command attention and the pace of the dialogue is freaky fast and freaky fun. Here’s a great example. I adore the superb use of sound effects. You want to rewind and listen again and again. Compelling.

The corporate site has only four TV commercials featuring everyday people in harrowing circumstances. As the crisis deepens, each individual makes a call – to Jimmy John’s. Fast-forward to a JJ delivery person holding the bag of goodies. Doorbell and voiceover: Jimmy John’s. America’s sandwich delivery experts. The commercials are good, but the only relationship with the radio campaign is the voice in the voiceover. Strange they didn’t leverage the Freaky Fast theme. Think of the zaniness they could deliver in freaky fast video.

Jimmy John’s has a Facebook page which appears to be the heart of their social media initiative. It boasts more than one-half million fans. Many customers write posts on the Wall about a recent purchase experience. The majority are positive, but on occasion there is a complaint. To Jimmy John’s credit, they publicly address criticisms and asks the complainants to email the offending franchise information so JJ can fix it. Here’s an example:

K: I ordered delivery 45 mins ago and I'm still waiting. *sad face*

JJ: ‎*sad face* I personally apologize K, I didn't build the biz delivering slow! Send me which store and your contact info to so I can fix it

Wow. And when a customer seems particularly hacked off, JJ gives a toll-free number so Jimmy John’s can personally talk to him. People love a company with a personal touch. Smart.

What I really like about the Facebook page, however, is how they create fan interaction. A recent Jimmy John’s post asked Fans to Find Your Jimmy-Rhyme. Fans are encouraged to post photos of Jimmy John’s rhyme billboards and busboards or write their own and post on the JJ Facebook wall. It’s generated scores of posts, yet surprisingly, only eight photos in its first 30 days. I expect it will pick up momentum.

Jimmy John’s leverages many of the available features on Facebook to keep their fans engaged and entertained, as well. From Polls to TalkinTummies to Videos, each application reinforces a positive brand experience. I was pleasantly surprised to see Fans can even order online on the JJ Facebook site. Brilliant!

Wisely, JJ maintains a steady stream of conversations with fans and critics alike on their Twitter feed and points people to their Facebook pages. Followers posts can earn a reply from Jimmy John’s and some are retweeted. Corporate and franchisees also tweet special promotions and announcements.

The Jimmy John’s JJ Freaker blog adds another dimension to the social media program. The only thing is, it doesn’t look, read or feel like a blog.  To me, it just look like another company website. It’s difficult to describe its purpose except maybe to serve as an aggregator of its Facebook and Twitter activities and to serve up special promotions. To me, it appears to be a failed attempt at embracing all social media tools.

The YouTube channel is another example and it’s a cautionary tale. Don’t jump into something if you can’t commit. The channel went completely stale freaky fast with no new content since its introduction on August 24, 2009. The site is abandoned. What happened? Did Jimmy John’s lay off the person responsible? People like me do stumble upon it via a search engine result, but we are quickly turned away because there’s nothing fresh there. With no one minding the store, not surprisingly, you will find a few f-bombs in the uncensored Comments section.

All-in-all, I give Jimmy John’s props. The integrated advertising and social media campaign does what it’s supposed to do. It keeps Jimmy John’s on the brain and whets your appetite for a freaky fast sub from America’s sandwich delivery experts. I think I’m going to have to lose my virginity real soon.