Aviation

EAD? It’s not as bad as all that

Richie Kenzie

An Australian airline telling an American rapper to “EAD (eat a dick), you douche” via Twitter is not the sort of pronouncement most in the travel industry would expect on a slow Tuesday.

Particularly since Virgin Australia doesn’t have much form in the past for commenting widely beyond its patch of domestic aviation. Or at least where consuming appendages is concerned.

But this incident got me thinking recently about the fine line between creating a Frankenstein style PR shitstorm and a genuine coup that endears a brand to people well beyond expectations (or intentions).

I suppose I believe the official version of last week’s strangest travel yarn, which as far as I can tell runs something like this. Bombastic rapper and renowned stage invader Kanye West releases his latest album to less than fawning acclaim from music critics Pitchfork (they had the temerity to rate it a 9/10). Kanye responds with trademark humility by telling Pitchfork via a tweet that his album is in fact a 30/10.

Outspoken rapper Kanye West
Outspoken rapper Kanye West

Back on our shores, an anonymous employee at Carat Australia – who count Virgin Australia as one of the studs in their impressive stable of clients – can contain themselves no longer and lets rip in response to West’s conceit. Evidently this employee has shot first and asked questions later, unaware they were still logged into Virgin’s account and not their own.

Next comes the standard PR fire extinguishing. The tweet is quickly deleted and a two part apology is issued from Virgin Australia’s Twitter account promising the ubiquitous investigation to root out the culprit and also saying sorry for using some naughty words.

The controversial tweet
The controversial tweet

The tweet was only live for a short time, but as my colleague Erin Doyle at our sister publication B&T is fond of saying, “the internet is forever”. Once the incongruity of a domestic airline calling out a much maligned and well known music figure made it to mainstream media, a hell of a lot more people than Virgin’s 210,000 Twitter followers became aware of the outburst.

And here’s the funny part, the tweet seemed to have the opposite effect of causing general outrage and tarnishing Virgin’s brand. If some of the responses I saw were any guide, a large majority of Twitter users found it rather amusing. In particular I think with, say, under 35s it would have resonated for several reasons. Firstly it was comprised of the kind of casual, Urban Dictionary-esque profanity that is now the staple of youth-oriented websites like Buzzfeed and Pedestrian.tv. It also tapped into the Zeitgeist nicely, having a pop at a pantomime villain of the music world just as the Grammy Awards were being dolled out. Both these factors might just have given Virgin a brief adrenalin shot of street cred among a certain significant demographic. Then again, maybe the majority of people just thought they’d been hacked and had a chuckle.

The denouement played out in very PR fashion too. As reported on B&T, Carat Australia eventually fessed up, with a representative stating: “The staff member responsible is still working with us and we are assessing a suitable course of disciplinary action with them.”

Call me a cynic but I wouldn’t be stunned if said staff member, far from being given a flogging with the proverbial cat’o’nine tails, was given a bottle of bubbly instead – or maybe just a gentle rap across the knuckles.

Personally, the whole episode reinforced how fickle the online world of Twitter can be in a PR sense. After all, this PR event started with a petty act of spite that was reciprocated. Take the poor folks at Malaysia Airlines in late 2014 by contrast, who with the best intentions in the world, ran a promotion asking its followers to reveal their “bucket list”. A bucket list of course, is the list of things you wish to achieve before you die – unfortunate timing indeed, given that over 500 of the carrier’s passengers had perished in the MH370 and MH17 disasters only months earlier. Unsurprisingly, that campaign was hastily renamed “your ultimate to-do list” after more than a few people tweeted that flying Malaysia Airlines would definitely not be on their bucket list. It’s a razor’s edge this PR caper.

But whatever actually went down with Carat’s fast fingered employee, I’m calling this one an inadvertent success. And hey, Carat walked away with the Media Agency of the Year gong at the 2015 B&T Awards, so they’re clearly doing something right.

Now, let’s all sit back and wait and wait for Qantas to start dissing Tay Tay or Bruno Mars…

 

SEE WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING

One response to “EAD? It’s not as bad as all that”

Leave a Reply

Travel Agents

Helloworld CEO pleased with investor feedback, as company completes $50m equity raising

Andrew Burnes has a bit of pep back in his step thanks to this latest vote of confidence from Helloworld’s investors.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

More than 100 jobs to go at Brisbane Airport

The cuts will account for, what would be by the end of 2020, a quarter of the company’s workforce.

Share

CommentComments

Hotels

Hotel Wrap: Industry bodies back resilience of Victorian hoteliers, Lizard Island to reopen + MORE

Looking for some news to help you cure your winter blues? Sit back and let this week’s Hotel Wrap warm your bones.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

Virgin Atlantic files for bankruptcy protection

Sir Richard Branson has reportedly been spotted buying Panadol in bulk to cope with the massive headache caused by Virgin’s UK-based airline.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

Returning NSW residents from Victoria to go into hotel quarantine from Friday

Gladys has upped the strictness scale for returning NSW travellers, who will have to complete hotel quarantine at their own expense from Friday.

Share

CommentComments

Wholesalers

Crooked Compass gives agents opportunity to consult with the master

Have you been dreaming about becoming best friends with travel guru Lisa Pagotto? Now’s your opportunity to make an impression.

Share

CommentComments

Technology

Travelport launches new tool for airline health and safety

Travelport has launched a nifty new feature to make airline health and safety measures more accessible for agents.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

STUDY: Aussies bursting for Pacific ‘bubble’ and domestic nature escapes

We creeped your clients’ search history and found out where they want to travel this year. Just kidding! An online travel platform did all the work for us.

Share

CommentComments

Cruise

Phew! Cruise line dodges potential COVID-19 outbreak after passenger tests positive

The poor old cruise industry was due for some positive news following the recent COVID-19 cases on board other cruise lines. Here it is.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

Former Tourism Australia country manager resurfaces at Visit Sunshine Coast

Jenny Aitken hasn’t wasted much time finding a new role since her recent exit from Tourism Australia, unless you count her daytime Netflix bingeing.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

Tigerair scratched, thousands of jobs cut and a simplified fleet: Virgin Australia’s six-point blueprint for success

Have you been wondering what the hell Virgin and its future owner have been up to as the administration process nears the finish line? All is revealed here.

Share

CommentComments

Hotels

Gun-toting hotel guest fires ‘warning shots’ after telling guests off for not social distancing

The coronavirus pandemic has unearthed some absolute crazies. On one end of the spectrum, you have Bunnings Karen; on the other end, you have this guy.

Share

CommentComments