When Social Media Humour #fails - If it ain't funny, don't say it.

Tia Fisher Freelance writer, Freelancer, mostly blogging for eModeration

Posted on April 13th 2012

When Social Media Humour #fails - If it ain't funny, don't say it.

Continuing our Friday look at this year's social media crises to date, I couldn't help but be struck by the number of misguided attempts at humour there have been so far.  Particularly sexist gibes. Listen up men (I'm going with my hunch on the authorship here): taking the risk of insulting half your audience - the purchasing half at that - just isn't a clever idea. 

Who wears the trousers (or indeed washes them?)

The washing label inside the trousers from Madhouse. Photo: Emma Barnett

This peach comes from Madhouse (and thanks to our friends at Carrot PR for spotting it). When the Digital Media Editor of The Telegraph, Emma Barnett, spotted this label inside a pair of chinos from the UK discount clothing store Madhouse, she was appalled.  Not, she was quick to point out, because she lacks a sense of humour, but because - perhaps unlike the t-shirt slogans from Topman which caused such outrage  last year - she felt that the label really was making no attempt to be funny.  She tweeted her displeasure - and back came the tweets of support and the odd inevitable brickbat.  Eventually, Madhouse got the message and apologised for their oversight in not spotting the sexist message, promising to be  "more careful in future".  And to do their own washing, one hopes.

Who dunnit?  Belvedere Vodka wishes it hadn't.

No-one owned up to being the brainchild ad agency behind the notorious rape-promoting Facebook and Twitter ad, which scored pretty highly on the poor taste scale -  though it seems all signs point to digital PR firm Last Exit, who issued a fairly self-damning 'no comment'.

It seems the image itself was actually filched from a video - and the video creators have a lawsuit pending, just waiting for someone to deliver it to.

It was left for the brand to fall upon their sword, and they duly did ...

 Belvedere pulled the ad and apologised, though initially in a lame kinda way which attracted yet more ire. Then they put their money where their mouth was and gave a contribution to RAINN (the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network) - unfortunately linking their announcement to a private individual's Facebook page (Ms Rain Chan's moment of fame). They sorted it out in the end, but it could have been a quicker and better process.  As far as we know, no agency has yet stepped up to the mark and admitted stealing the image or thinking sexual asault is amusing.

The moral of the story? 1.  Agencies - don't create crap (stolen) ads which promote violence against women and just aren't funny.  2.  Brands - Don't sign them off.  And learn to apologise better.

It was internet start-up Sqoot's turn to be really really sorry when someone at the company thought it would be a good idea to promote the fact that they had female bar staff serving at an event. "Women: Need another beer? Let one of our friendly (female) event staff get that for you."


Now I have to be honest here: set against the backdrop of serious offences committed against women, that one doesn't rank very highly with me.  But nonetheless, people in the tech community were upset, and let Sqoot know it.  Sqoot didn't handle the conversations awfully well at that point ...


When the event sponsors started to pull out - with tweets announcing their decision - Sqoot issued this apology:  "While we thought this was a fun, harmless comment poking fun at the fact that hack-a-thons are typically male-dominated, others were offended. That was not our intention and thus we changed it."  Too little, too late. The event was subsequently cancelled, and Sqoot was left doing the Twitter equivalent of writing 100 lines: "I must not make sexist quips.  I must not ..."
And finally ...

No record of this year's social media sexism would be complete without mention of Samantha Brick, who wasn't trying to be funny but ended up an international laughing stock with her assertion that the only reason women didn't like her was because of her drop-dead gorgeousness.  As many of us begged to disagree with both points, she trended for days on Twitter, and - apologies to the sisterhood and all that - but the ensuing barrage of tweets, spoof Twitter accounts and doctored images gave us the best laughs we've had for a long time.


Tia Fisher

Freelance writer, Freelancer, mostly blogging for eModeration

Freelance writer and social media enthusiast, frequently to be found blogging with with the social media management agency eModeration. You can find her on .

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