Online insurance company Esurance purchased the first commercial after the final whistle of the Super Bowl last night. The ad buy was a shrewd play, combining paid and social media which has led to earned media—but not necessarily the kind the insurer wanted.
After the Super Bowl ended, Esurance announced a contest in which it would give away $1.5 million—money otherwise spent on an in-game execution—to a Twitter user who includes the hashtag #EsuranceSave30 in a tweet during the 36 hours immediately following the game.
The Office star John Krasinski appeared in the commercial, referring the 30% savings, “which is what they say they can save you.” Krasinski will unveil the winner on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on Wednesday.
However, the contest has led to some offensive tweets, Cnet reported, pointing to a fairly low barrier for entry.
Some cheeky tweets aside, there were also a large number of tweets using the #EsuranceSave30 hashtag that linked it to any number of extremely offensive terms or even attacked the insurance company itself, according to Cnet.
This is probably not what Esurance had in mind when it created this Twitter campaign: @AdamWednesdays tweeted: "Every tweet with #EsuranceSave30 is an entry to win? Then let me use this tweet to say: Esurance was founded by Nazi war criminals."
The episode is a painful lesson for PR pros: While combining paid and social media is the wave of the future, communicators have to be increasingly vigilant that when they leverage one media to another it does not lead to any unintended consequences. Or, in the world of social media, you at least try and mitigate them.
Follow Matthew Schwartz on Twitter: @mpsjourno1