Coca-Cola learned a hard lesson this week with its automated #MakeItHappy Twitter campaign. The beverage giant should know by now that anytime you deploy an automated campaign on the Internet, there are going to be attempts to break the system. Coca-Cola had no other option than to suspend their #MakeItHappy campaign after the automated system was tricked into quoting from Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
The purpose of the campaign was to encourage Twitter users to forward hurtful and negative tweets to Coke so the brand may turn the words into positive, cute images. The campaign was launched during a sixty-second ad that ran during the Super Bowl. The ad focused on the importance of sharing happiness on the Internet rather than being mean spirited. The follow up to the sixty-second ad asked Twitter users to send negative tweets to Coca-Cola using the hashtag #MakeItHappy. The brand then took the negative message and transformed the words into an auto-generated art image using ASCII lettering code. You can try ASCII lettering for yourself by clicking here.
It was the beginning of the end when Coke turned the white nationalism slogan of the “Fourteen Words” into a cute dog. This inspired the tech blog Gawker to see how far they could push the automated campaign. Gawker’s editorial labs director, Adam Pash, started his evil-pushing adventure by creating a Twitter account with the handle @MeinCoke. He then proceeded to tweet quotes from Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Surely enough, Coke’s automated campaign pounced on the bait. Coke took the hateful words and created cute images like a cat playing the drums and a happy burger.
Coke responded to the “attack” by deleting the Hitler-related tweets and commented:
“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.”
According to Coke, Wednesday February 4th was planned to be the final day of the campaign. As a follow-up, Coke’s social media team are promoting their “Smile Petition” to support customer engagement surrounding the #MakeItHappy campaign. Coke claimed that sentiment surrounding the #MakeItHappy campaign as a whole was 95% positive to neutral, with only 5% negative.
Considering Coke’s past with automated campaign backlash, one would have thought that the brand would have prepared for some sort of sabotage. Especially considering the fact that the campaign is targeting the types of negative entities that would want to sabotage a campaign geared towards eliminating them.
The lesson to be learned is that any auto-generated campaign needs to have safeguards in place to avoid embarrassing and potentially brand-harmful activities. Ample preparation is necessary in the planning stages of the campaign to eliminate the potential for risk while the campaign is running on its own. And while the campaign is running, quality control and monitoring activities need to be performed to protect the brand.