Brand “Newsjacking”: the good, the bad and the (really, really) ugly.


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Talk about a week filled with Tabloid-friendly news. First the birth of His Royal Highness Prince George, the family’s reaction, the first pictures, the name speculation, blah, blah,blah. Then the latest chapter in Anthony Weiner’s run for mayor of New York City, namely the fact that he doesn’t appear to have changed his ways since resigning Congress in light of tweeting lewd photos of himself.

What do these stories have to do with brands? Many of them attempted to use these events to gain attention to themselves. In effect, these stories had been “newsjacked” by brands.

A few examples? Google, Oreo and Charmin were among the high profile brands to launch “newsjacking” ad campaigns aiming to cash in on the birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s baby boy. Here’s a fun contribution from Oreo:


For the most part, “newsjacking” may work for a brand if the content is fairly light, fits in the character of the brand, and is tied to a story that lacks controversy or is a celebration. Amazingly, some brands actually try to “newsjack” news stories that involve controversy or are in questionable taste.

Kenneth Cole, for example, sent out this tweet during the Arab Spring uprising in Egypt.


Predictably, Kenneth Cole got an earful about the questionable taste of the tweet. In fact, one enterprising critic started a fake Kenneth Cole Twitter account and sent out additional borderline offensive tweets.


Brands have even been so tone deaf that they’ve tried to newsjack tragedies such as Hurricane Sandy and the Boston Marathon bombing. Here’s a particularly questionable set of tweets sent by Epicurious immediately following the bombing:


I can’t fathom why any brand would want to stir the pot this way. Sure you’ll get attention. But at what cost?

That brings me to the case of Mini Cooper, who is attempting to make light of the Anthony Weiner scandal. It set up a Twitter account under the name “Carlos D. Motor” (a play on Weiner’s now-famous Twitter handle of @CarlosDanger), and has tweeted out photos of the car with somewhat racy captions.


Evidently they’ve learned nothing from the Kenneth Coles of the world.

Newsjacking might get your brand some short-term attention. But my advice is to steer clear of controversial news, no matter how timely. And keep in mind that at its best, topical content lacks staying power. News doesn’t stay around for long – and this short life span means that cheap laugh your cheeky ad, tweet or meme generated will be forgotten in a couple of days.

No doubt, it takes a lot to stand out in social media today. But rather than go off-script with some Junior High-type humor, why not focus on creating and distributing content your audience will find helpful, rewarding or entertaining?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mickey Lonchar
Mickey Lonchar has spent the better part of two decades creating award-winning advertising with agencies up and down the West Coast, Mickey currently holds the position of creative director with Quisenberry Marketing & Design, a full-service advertising and interactive shop with offices in Spokane and Seattle, Wash.


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