Social Media Marketing with Twitter: The EA Comic-Con
A Night with the Hottest Girl at Comic-Con. Dinner, Booty & More.
A viral social media marketing campaign by EA has lived up to its name and quickly become an infection that appears will require Electronic Arts (EA) to do some damage control.
The nature of the competition which is sexually suggestive, has received a barrage of negative sentiment fuelled by tribes on Twitter using the #EAFail and #lust hashtags. Some Tweeps suggest that EA has isolated their female market (about 40% of gamers are women:)
malinhanas: Wow. Considering 40% of gamers are women makes this idea even more ridiculous #EAFail #Lust
MelindaShore: still don't understand who thought that giving away a woman like she's an iPod or theatre tickets was a good idea #eafail
And while there have been several male commentators weighing in with negative sentiment, The primary target market for Dante's Inferno, red-blooded teenage males, don't appear to have even raised an eyebrow.
The wording on the flyers ” Commit Acts of Lust” is contradictory to the imagery on display. The picture suggests just taking a platonic picture with a booth babe and keep your hands to yourself. However, the image caption is a little more provocative. While most people are socially well adjusted, some attendees will have no doubt interpreted this as an invitation to get up-close and a little too personal with the booth girls. But as some commentators point out, everyone may be overreacting:
Vegas comment on Mashable:
Ah c'mon, the average person that goes to comic con is too afraid of booth babes (they might be horny tho) and no sexual harassment will happen. At all
And Tom Gray adds:
EA chose the wrong words in promoting their contest but their audience isn't Gloria Steinem it's socially awkward, 15 year old Conner sitting in the basement with his equally socially awkward friends dreaming of the girls they'll never get — at least until they become the next software/internet/social media gazillionaire.
EA have responded to the criticism:
Thanks you for all of your comments and concerns around the Sin to Win Contest at Comic Con. We've responded here: http://twitpic.com/bi18o10:59 AM Jul 25th
We understand there's a lot of debate right now around our “Sin to Win” promotion at Comic-Con and wanted to clarify a few things. We created this promotion as part of our marketing efforts around the circle of Lust (one of the nine sins/circles of Hell). Each month we will be focusing on a new Circle of Hell. This month is Lust. Costumed reps are a tradition at Comic-Con. In the spirit of both the Circle of Lust and Comic-Con, we are encouraging attendees to Tweet photos of themselves with any of the costumed reps at Comic-Con here, find us on Facebook or via e-mail. “Commit acts of lust” is simply a tongue-in-cheek way to say take pictures with costumed reps. Also, a “Night of Lust” means only that the winner will receive a chaperoned VIP night on the town with the Dante's Inferno reps, all expenses paid, as well as other prizes.
We apologize for any confusion and offense that resulted from our choice of wording, and want to assure you that we take your concerns and sentiments seriously. We'll continue to follow your comments and please let us know if you have any other thoughts or concerns. Keep watching as the event unfolds and we hope you'll agree that it was all done in the spirit of the good natured fun of Comic-Con.
A Lack of Transparency & Authenticity
- The contest was not restricted to just EA's employees, but extended to any booth babe at comic-con. I wonder if the comic-con organisers knew about and condoned the contest before hand?
- A hoax protest against the game outside Comic-con adds to the inauthenticity of EA's tactics. Something that could lead one to argue that it is something that is ingrained in their corporate culture.
- In a social media ecosystem that demands a transparency and authenticity to survive, their published apology leaves a lot to be desired.
Crisis Response Management
Everything is public. Comments can be picked up and quoted by any publication. This outcome shouldn't have caught them with their pants down and they should have had a crisis response plan in place. The speed of propagation offered by Twitter means that you have to be on your toes and ready to react. Fast.
EA should have expected the campaign to be talked about when they chose a social medium like Twitter to run it. They should have known that more than just their primary target market for this game would get wind of it.
EA could have:
- Admitted they were wrong, rather than contend that their customers have misinterpreted the situation. The customer is always right.
- Responded to individual tweets and comments to show that they are actually listening to people rather than just saying that they are in a blanket statement posted on Twitpic (of all places.) In fact, one critic has made it easy for them and started an archive of EAFail.
A more transparent apology that addressed these points would have been better, but there's no doubt that the final cut had to go through the legal department for approval first. They probably should have run the whole campaign past legal and HR first too.
Gary Vay Ner Chuck sums up Crisis Management nicely in this video:
Turning Negatives into Positives
- #EAFail will continue to live on in the Twittersphere, being used as a spammer hashtag more than anything else.
- The campaign is very obvious and lacks creativity. It was done in poor taste and with a lack of proper consideration for using Twitter as a platform to run it.
- The flyer is designed to get the participant's mind racing and fantasizing of what could happen and succeeds.
- #EAFail or #lust never got on Twitter's Top Trends.
- The unofficial The_Sims_3 account seems relatively unaffected, with very little negative sentiment creeping in. However, it's important to note that the account is not controlled by EA which highlights how easy it is for someone to hijack the brand and run a smear campaign against them.
- A key marketing tenet is to under promise and over deliver. EA's prize does the exact opposite.
The flyer says:
Front: Dinner and a Sin Ful night with two hot girls, a limo service, paparazzi and a chest full of Booty.
Back: A night with the hottest girl at Comic-Con, Dinner, Booty and more.
And then the apology says:
A “Night of Lust” means only that the winner will receive a chaperoned VIP night on the town with the Dante's Inferno reps, all expenses paid, as well as other prizes.
They appear to have insinuated more than what is actually in-store for the winner.
- A relative handful of people are boycotting EA, but most seem to think there has been an over-reaction or are willing to forgive the indiscretion.
- The campaign has not appeared in Twitter's Top Trends list (or on hashtags.org) nor has it made a dent according to Google Insighs.
- In the grand scheme of things, this will blow over within a couple of weeks, but for EA this is a stain on their permanent record and well, some people may decide not to buy the latest Sims game.