Did Post-Super Bowl PR Campaign Backfire on Esurance?

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

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  • http://about.me/wtneary Walter Neary

    It’s going to be hard to come up with a campaign that could never be affected by the lowest common denominator in the social media environment where some users are anonymous and some don’t care about conveying their maturity level. So companies should certainly avoid campaigns that invite abuse, intentionally or not – but over time, we’ll all get used to the jerks coming in on anything involving social media.

  • Christopher Masak

    I’ll paraphrase the old adage, “All publicity is good publicity”. While that’s clearly not 100% true, it may be appropriate in this situation. How many of those folks who posted inappropriate Tweets had ever heard of Esurance before this promo, much less written about the company or interacted with the company? And how may more individuals read the ludicrous responses on Twitter and got sucked into the campaign? Personally, I tweeted using that hashtag and have never had Esurance on my radar…at least now I know they exist. Just look at JC Penney’s “tweeting with mittens” (aka. drunk tweets) pseudo controversy. It made ya look now didn’t it? When was the last time anyone glanced JCP’s way?

  • realitychecked

    Did it backfire? It did not. Quite the opposite. You were clearly struggling for something to write here… Weigh in when you actually have something worth offering.

  • Jennifer Zak

    True, but none of those people can win. Just read the “Official Rules”- Number 3 reads “Sponsor may disqualify entries if the Entry and related Tweet includes inappropriate, offensive or other derogatory language or information.”