Warner Bros., the National Rifle Association and Celeb Boutique became instant case studies Friday (July 20) on what happens when pre-planned marketing collides with human tragedy in real-time. Warner Bros. was easily caught in the most precarious position after 12 moviegoers were shot to death last night in Aurora, Colo. The victims were there to catch opening night of the highly anticipated Warner Bros. film “The Dark Knight Rises,"—a movie itself colored by violence and heavy themes like terrorism and anarchy.
Though a screening for the latest “Batman” franchise piece was canceled in Paris Friday afternoon, Warner Bros. appeared to be forging ahead into the weekend with showings around the U.S. At press time, it was not clear whether the company would continue on with TV ads and other marketing it undoubtedly had planned for the next three days.
"Warner Bros. and the filmmakers are deeply saddened to learn about this shocking incident,” a spokesperson said via email. “We extend our sincere sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims at this tragic time."
Though their circumstances greatly differed, the NRA, Celeb Boutique and other social media advertisers also dealt with the massacre’s aftermath today, with Twitter at the center of it all.
A social media staffer for the NRA tweeted the following at 9:10 a.m. ET: “Good morning, shooters. Weekend plans? Happy Friday! Weekend plans?”
Twitter users exploded with outrage over the tweet, which was posted via the account for American Rifleman, the NRA’s official magazine. Shortly after Noon, administrators for the “NRA_Rifleman” account deleted the tweet.
What’s more, the publication’s account was deleted around 3 p.m. All of the American Rifleman's tweets are gone for good, as well as the retweets it inspired. Twitter declined to comment about any of the developments, while the NRA told CNN that “Good morning, shooters” tweet was posted by someone who had yet to hear about the Colorado killings.
Meanwhile, it’s seems obvious that advertisers would want to stay away from trending topics that centered on an undisputably horrible event. For instance, “#theatershooting”, “#Colorado”, and “#Aurora” were trending on Twitter all day. Thus, Twitter did not run any Promoted Tweets on Friday once the massacre became public.
In perhaps the biggest head-scratcher of the last several hours, Celeb Boutique, a U.K.-based retailer, mentioned the tragedy in a tweet early this afternoon: “#Aurora is trending, clearly about our Kim K inspired #Aurora dress 😉 Shop: celebboutique.com/aurora-white-pleated-v-neck-strong-shoulder-dress-en.html”.
Twitter users responded nastily, and Celeb Boutique pleaded ignorance with a few follow-up tweets on the social site. Like the NRA, the fashion retailer said the tweet’s author was oblivious to the Colorado shooting spree.