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Social media has given everyone a voice. And while that’s an optimistic sentiment, this isn’t always a good thing – the internet may be a haven of free speech, but it’s also the motherland of the troll. This fact has been exemplified once again in Walkers’ latest ad ‘Walkers Wave’. An innocent attempt to harness online engagement ended in tears when the Twitter account was left unmonitored. The trolls turned out in droves, and the crisp brand was forced to cut the campaign short. We explore the insights behind crowdsourced campaigns, and discover how brands can involve their audiences without being trolled.

Walkers asked Twitter users to share a selfie with the hashtag #WalkersWave to the official Walkers Twitter to be in with a chance of winning a pair of tickets to the UEFA Champions League Final. The selfie would then be incorporated into a video with Gary Lineker which would be automatically re-posted onto the Walkers Twitter feed. But as people cottoned onto the fact that the submissions to Walkers were being reposted by Walkers without being vetted first, they began uploading images of infamous individuals – from Josef Fritzl to Jimmy Saville – with Walkers adding pre-generated captions like “Great Shot!” and “Good luck!” to each post. “We recognise people were offended by irresponsible and offensive posts by individuals,” read a statement from a Walkers spokesperson, “and we apologise. We’re equally upset and have shut down all activity.”

You can't trust people
Jim_UK | YouTube (2017) ©

This isn’t the first time a brand has fallen to the mercy of Twitter trolls; when Microsoft launched chatbot Tay on Twitter – programmed to learn and imitate the speech patterns of Gen Yers – she’d turned into a racist, sexist, genocidal drug-addict within hours of her launch, before eventually having a meltdown and being taken offline. The lesson? In interactive campaigns, there’s such a thing as too much control.

That’s not to say interactive campaigns can’t be successful – in fact, they’re something Walkers has previously nailed. Its ‘Do Us a Flavour’ campaign, which allowed voters to pick from a selection of new flavours, led to an 8% sales boost. And because this campaign was judged by humans, Walkers could control the conversation, preventing any inappropriate responses that could cause any backlash or bad press. The Walkers Wave campaign, however, shows the difficulty many brands face in trying to bridge the gap between allowing people to drive conversation and engagement, and totally losing control to trolls. As Super Hans of UK comedy Peep Show aptly notes; “People like Coldplay and voted for the Nazis. You can’t trust people.” 

Lucy Thompson works in the client services department at Canvas8, which specialises in behavioural insights and consumer research. She lives in Brixton and spends her free time hunting down the meanest Negronis or trundling about the Kentish countryside.


Canvas8

30 May 17
3 min read

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