Best media slip-ups this summer

We like to celebrate the good and the bad here at First Degree PR. We’re fair and balanced, just like Fox News. Herewith, the best of the baddest moves in the media this summer. You’re welcome.

Best ethical conundrum: Sean Penn’s interview with El Chapo

On January 8th, Joaquín Guzmán, a Mexican drug lord known as “El Chapo”, was captured by Mexican authorities after months on the run. A day later, it was revealed that actor Sean Penn had conducted a secret interview with Guzman for Rolling Stone. Penn had met with El Chapo last October in a jungle hideout where they discussed his life and the global drug trade for several hours over tequila. According to an unnamed Mexican official, Penn’s meeting was being monitored and subsequently led to the arrest of the kingpin.

The incident has attracted plenty of controversy and raises questions around the legal responsibility Sean Penn might face from conducting the meeting and the article’s sympathetic portrayal of Guzman. Experts have been quick to criticise the ethics behind the story as, among other things, the drug baron was allegedly allowed to read and approve the piece before publication. In a TV interview, Penn told 60 Minutes that his intention was to spark a debate about the war on drugs and he feels no responsibility for Guzman’s recapture. One thing’s for sure: it got the world talking.

Best merchandise mistake: Woolworths’ Tasmania-free caps

In the lead up to Australia Day, supermarket giant Woolworths began selling caps emblazoned with a flag-filled outline of our sunburnt country. However, they managed to forget one crucial part: the entire state of Tasmania. Customers took to social media, with both Tasmanians and mainlanders expressing disapproval. Woolworths laid the blame on the supplier and said all merchandise would be removed from shelves. It’s not the first time Woolies has been guilty of a marketing malfunction, with their ‘Fresh in our memories’ Anzac Day campaign in 2015 still, well, fresh in our memories. We just hope that moving forward there will be checks in place to avoid a repeat.

Honorary mention goes to Coles for hanging Australian flags with an upside down Union Jack and reversed Southern Cross in their Brisbane stores. It appears that when it comes to Australia Day merchandise, the supermarket chains just can’t seem to get it right …

Best business that’s gone bust: Dick Smith

How did analysts and the business press not see this one coming? Dick Smith was one of the country’s most successful electronic retailers and a household name. So when news broke that the business was being placed into administration, it sent shockwaves to staff, customers and investors alike. While there is speculation that cash constraints were likely to blame, the reasons behind Dick Smith’s collapse have not been known, which will be the subject of a forthcoming Senate Inquiry.

In 2013, Dick Smith diversified into fashion and wearable technology with the introduction of its Move stores, which aims to target the younger, tech-savvy demographic. The progressive concept stores sell high-end tech products such as wireless headphones, laptop bags and designer phone cases and also offer a customisable service. We’re sad to see what was an innovative business idea fail.

Best social media fail: MTV Australia’s tweet

At this year’s Golden Globe Awards, actresses America Ferrera and Eva Longoria poked fun at the apparent confusion of distinguishing Latino actresses when presenting an award together. MTV Australia probably intended to laugh with them, not at them, posting this jibe on their Twitter account: ‘Where are the English subtitles?’

It’s possible to see where they were trying to go with the theme of the tweet, but it wasn’t executed correctly and so came across as offensive. The sarcasm just wasn’t obvious enough. The tweet received a ton of criticism on social media for being a racist statement before being deleted, but screenshots are forever. MTV Australia was forced to issue an apology acknowledging it was a bad call and that they will ‘leave the humour for Ricky Gervais’ (the Awards’ host). Had they read our post on social media crisis management, they might’ve been able to avoid such a situation. But unfortunately the damage has been done and it will surely leave a mark on the reputation of MTV Australia.

Best attention-grabbing ad: Australia Day lamb ad

You were either amused or angered, but this ad definitely got people talking. In January, Meat and Livestock Australia released their annual Australia Day ad with this year’s centred on saving Australian expats that are unable to enjoy Australian lamb on our national day. Backed by a SWAT-like team, ‘Lambassador’ Lee Lin Chin and a number of famous Aussie cameos assure ‘you’ll never lamb alone’.

However, many found the ad to not be well done (pardon the pun). The Advertising Standards Bureau received over 600 complaints citing the discriminatory use of the term ‘Operation Boomerang’, and the violent treatment of vegans – making it the most complained about ad in Australian television history. In the end, the ASB found it to not have breached standards and it was allowed to remain on air. It does make you think, have we lost our sense of humour to political correctness? At least 600 Aussies have.