5 of the most offensive and stupidest PR fails of 2015 so far

5 of the most offensive and stupidest PR fails of 2015 so far

Its been a busy quarter one for major Public Relations blunders. Nowadays, it appears not a day goes by without a certain brand or individual making some unfortunate and sometimes unforgivable mistake on a broadcast network or on social media. As a followup to our listicle of the biggest PR disasters of 2014, let us relive and take stock of the most exceptional, offensive and stupidest Public Relations fails of the year so far.


1. AT&T’s Aaron Slator fired over racist meme

One would think racially charged discussions and subject matter would be off limits. It appears that this particular sentiment was lost on the former President of Content and Advertising sales at AT&T, Aaron Slator. He is the latest executive to lose his job over a racist text. The text included a picture of a dancing African child with the caption “Its Friday, N word”. Slator is also named in a $110 million lawsuit brought against him and other AT&T executives for discrimination.


2. Urban Outfitters unfortunate tapestry

The retail brand got into trouble earlier this year, for selling a tapestry that bore a “striking resemblance to the uniforms worn by gay male prisoners in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust.” Urban Outfitters is no stranger to criticism; the retail establishment has been known to create apparels linked to tragic events yet they continue to make the same mistakes. Perhaps they are doing this intentionally to keep the public talking about them.

The ADL called the tapestry "eerily reminiscent" of the uniforms that gay Nazi prisoners were forced to wear in concentration camps (popdust.com)

The ADL called the tapestry “eerily reminiscent” of the uniforms that gay Nazi prisoners were forced to wear in concentration camps (popdust.com)


3. Coca Cola’s German Fanta problem

Coca Cola produced a commercial to celebrate the 75th anniversary of its sister company Fanta. The ad sought to educate viewers of Fanta’s rich history and bring back the “good old times,” when Fanta was created. Except there was nothing good about 1940’s Germany; it was the time when political and economic ideologies were put into effect by the Nazis in Germany. Recognizing the unfortunate circumstances it found itself in, Coca Cola pulled the commercial and apologized for their missteps. Looks like Coca Cola got a much needed history lesson.



4. SeaWorld #ASkSeaWorld epic fail

As part of its reputation building campaign, Sea World carried out a social media Q&A session using the hashtag #ASkSeaWorld. They encouraged fans to ask them any questions about SeaWorld and its Animals. The social media session failed. A lot of the questions asked by fans went unanswered. Users began to use #Emptythetanks and #AnswertheQ to express their frustrations about the company. It is never a good idea to do a Q&A session when your brand is controversial. Things can go wrong very quickly on social media, and most of the time there is nothing anyone can do about it. Did SeaWorld not learn anything from the #myNYPD disaster of 2014?





5. Vogue’s Elisabeth von Thun and Taxis becomes tone deaf

Vogue’s Style Editor at large, Elisabeth von Thun und Taxis, took a picture of a homeless person in Paris reading a Vogue magazine and posted it on Instagram with the caption “Paris is full of surprises… and @voguemagazine readers even in unexpected corners.” The post made von Thun und Taxis appear ignorant and out of touch to the plight of those in need. Moreover, her actions could very quickly be transferred to the brand that she represents. Now, had she taken down the post and apologized immediately for her ill-advised post, she probably would not have made our list.


Vogue editor’s Instagram photo goes viral, PR fail follows

Vogue editor’s Instagram photo goes viral, PR fail follows (instagram.com)


A good reputation is important for brands; once its lost, it can be difficult to get it back. Therefore, brands must exercise caution when developing and executing Public Relations campaigns. For starters, they can take a cue from those who understand how to use Public Relations effectively.


What other PR fails have happened this year? Tell us in the comment section or tweet me @mo_yeen

Moyin Bamgboye

Moyin Bamgboye holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communication and a master’s degree in marketing communications. She’s a media junkie and a public relations enthusiast adept at converting research insights into brand stories. Moyin loves to travel and enjoys a good Netflix marathon. She reports on a variety of stories for MUIPR, with a focus on public relations, technology, and innovation. Follow her on twitter @mo_yeen

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