Coca-Cola Pulls Facebook Promotion Amid Porn Complaints

Never underestimate the power of porn. A distraught Glasgow woman has single-handedly forced the giant soft drink maker Coca-Cola to pull a Dr. Pepper Facebook promotion after her 14 year old daughter’s status was altered to include reference to a porn movie. The promotion required Dr. Pepper “hijacking” users’ status updates with embarrassing statements – some more embarrassing than others by the looks of it. The offending statement was first removed, but Coca-Cola announced yesterday that they would end the promotion altogether. Regardless of whether or not the pornographic status update would offend us all, this signals a victory for the solitary voice using social media to rally against a multi-billion dollar corporation online.

It all started on a good old-fashioned forum. A user named MrsRickman posted on the parenting forum Mumsnet that she was shocked at her recent discovery of a pornographic status update on her 14-year-old daughter’s Facebook profile. She dug a little deeper, and found that it was part of Coca-Cola’s Dr. Pepper promotion requiring that users allow Dr. Pepper to hijack their Facebook status for a chance to win $1,000 each week. Her daughter had entered, and her Facebook status changed to include reference to the infamous 2 Girls 1 Cup porn movie, reading: “‘I watched 2 girls one cup and felt hungry afterwards’.”
MrsRickman discovered that her daughter had attempted to find out what the movie was, which was the last straw for this concerned parent. She contacted Coca-Cola, and after being offered tickets to a show and a night in a London hotel (“Fat lot of use to me, we live in Glasgow.”), she got what she was looking for: Coca-Cola pulled the plug.
The Guardian reports that a spokesperson from Coca-Cola made the following statement amid the porn status controversy:

It has been brought to our attention that the Dr Pepper promotion on Facebook posted an offensive status update. We apologise for any offence caused. As soon as we became aware of this, we took immediate action and removed the status update from the application. We have also taken the decision to end the promotion. We will take all steps necessary to ensure this does not happen again.

This illustrates two reigning trends on the increasingly social web: the power of viral marketing (and the pitfalls thereof), and the power of the single voice up against an institution.
Coke wanted to produce a viral campaign that would sweep across Facebook and subversively put Dr. Pepper into the minds of its users. They were successful – possibly more than they imagined. While the quirky hijacked status messages were getting a bit of attention, this recent development will likely begin spreading through the blogs and news outlets like wildfire. They will be associated with pornographic content, and two camps will likely battle over whether the offended mother was simply too conservative and ruined a great campaign, or whether she is a shining example of free speech amplified on the ‘net.
Which brings out the second trend that this story illustrates: one voice’s power online. MrsRickman was just one mother who voiced a complaint against Coke. Years ago, when she wouldn’t have had access to an online public forum, she would have likely had to call Coke’s customer service department only to be shuffled from representative to representative and eventually told that they were sorry but there was nothing they could do. Today, she was able to take the incident public using a forum and social media. This played a large part in Coke’s decision to end the promotion.
Now, some people may argue that MrsRickman was just overly sensitive and that the status message should not have been censored. There is, no doubt, some truth to this, as her daughter did willingly sign up for the promotion – however, a pornographic reference probably should not have been part of Coke’s repertoire. And even if this message does not offend everyone, it is encouraging to see that a single individual online has the power to stand up against a company with a multi-million dollar advertising budget.



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