An employee at Meredith-owned New Media Strategies, which was Chrysler’s social media agency of record, posted a tweet containing an f-bomb from the @ChryslerAuto account: “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f–king drive.”
After deleting the tweet, Chrysler made a statement saying the company does not tolerate such language and stated the agency employee who posted the comment has since been terminated. Chrysler has also reportedly dropped New Media Strategies from its agency roster.
I documented last month what I suppose is a lenient outlook toward corporate tweeting faux pas when Kenneth Cole made a ripple by misusing the uprising in Egypt as a punchline.
Despite my initial impulse to just laugh and get on with my day in the wake of first reading about this tweet on Ad Age, I have worked for an agency and I cringed knowing firsthand the repercussions that come with angering a client to this degree. I don’t envy being called into a boss’s office to explain how I could have tweeted something from a client’s account when I thought I was using my own, which is what some are speculating happened.
Chrysler is free to do as it pleases and it’s not my place or responsibility to offer unsolicited advice as to how Chrysler or New Media Strategies should handle the situation, so I won’t.
That being said, the only people paying attention to the aftermath are media and communications professionals, many of whom see this tweet as nothing short of funny. I have yet to see a tweet or comment skewering Chrysler for the mishap or demanding that heads roll, and the few commenters that support putting the employee under the lash are doing so on behalf of a segment of the population that may be offended by such language, not because they themselves are offended.
Yes, a lot of people are offended by the f-word; a middle-America grandmother comes to mind. How many middle-American grandmothers are on Twitter, though, in a position to be offended first-hand? Not many. It’s impossible to work in advertising or media without a sense of humor, or at least a degree of empathy for how these things can happen, and anyone who has come into contact with this story fits that bill.
This isn’t the BP oil disaster, and I wonder if Chrysler has had as many visitors in the life of its Twitter page as it has had today, and isn’t such exposure what it’s all about? Sure, it’s not the straightest path to engagement, but what better opportunity to connect with an audience that is clearly interested in hearing the response to a problem. Here is a standing audience of people employed to solve marketing problems, eagerly awaiting a response to this one, and the response, though unambiguous, forthright and definitely justified, leaves something to the imagination in terms of creative possibilities left unturned.