Coca-Cola‘s #MakeItHappy campaign seemingly began with the best of intentions — to make the internet a happier place by turning hateful or negative tweets into cute pictures made of ASCII code.
They even did so with one of the tweets from our sister site AgencySpy:
— Coca-Cola (@CocaCola) February 2, 2015
The idea was for people to tag upsetting tweets with the #MakeItHappy hashtag, allowing Coke to auto-edit them into cutesy images.
But as Progressive, the Patriots, and so many more have taught us, automation is not your friend on Twitter.
The trouble started when people (inevitably) began testing the system by tagging particularly awful statements with Coke’s hashtag, just to see what would happen.
You’ve almost certainly seen the results of Gawker’s experiment:
Coca-Cola responded by pulling the campaign and delivering this statement to AdWeek:
“The #MakeItHappy message is simple: The Internet is what we make it, and we hoped to inspire people to make it a more positive place. It’s unfortunate that Gawker is trying to turn this campaign into something that it isn’t. Building a bot that attempts to spread hate through #MakeItHappy is a perfect example of the pervasive online negativity Coca-Cola wanted to address with this campaign.”
Some parties have questioned the wisdom of Coca-Cola’s decision to shut it down, but from this angle it looks like a win: the statement spins the story to cast Gawker as the very sort of negative force Coke created its campaign to fight.
Is Gawker really some sort of sinister player out to disrupt a super-positive project? Is Coca-Cola really the champion of all things harmonious and happy? No and of course not.
Still, the company gets to look like it’s taking the high road here, no matter how embarrassing the experiment may have been in the moment…and we all learned, yet again, that automation without close human oversight will always create problems.