Virgin Media Sees Promo Opp in Burger King Horse Meat Scandal

We all know that one brand’s bad news can be another brand’s opportunity–especially if the second group uses humor to make the most of it socially.

Virgin Movies, the film-centric wing of the Virgin empire, used the UK’s ongoing “horse meat posing as beef” scandal as an opportunity to drop a clever horse-themed promo via its Twitter feed. Here’s how that particular game works: make a reference to a topic currently engaging the audience and then perform a skillful segue into your own branding/promotional message.

First British supermarket Tesco, one of the key players in the scandal, published an apology in major newspapers to take responsibility for unknowingly carrying horse meat and ask for the public’s forgiveness. Then Virgin posted a satirical “statement” using nearly identical language:

“As some of our TiVo customers may have noticed, when searching through our tailor made collections of topical on-demand films, the collection, entitled #Mooovies, which promised a rich selection of films starring cows, did in fact contain films primarily featuring horses.

…we would like to take the opportunity to mark the positive contributions that both cows and horses have made to cinematic and television culture…

The team concluded with a funny call to action (and of course there was never any such thing as a #Mooovies collection):

If…you would like to suggest silly puns about cows or horses and classic film titles, please tweet them using the #Mooovies hashtag, copying in our @MoviesONVM handle.”

One note: Virgin’s reference to the horse meat debacle was almost hidden–the message wisely avoids incurring bad karma by mentioning Burger King, Tesco or any of the other brands caught up in the debacle, which has now spread to affect meat-lovers in 16 countries.

Can we think of American brands that have used the same “Turn another company’s crisis into a free PR opportunity” model?

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