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3 of the biggest PR disasters of 2017 & what to learn from them


January 4, 2018 – Nicona Lane, Assistant Account Executive

Inevitably, PR disasters happen. Whether it’s an ad, a video, a tweet or a statement from a CEO, they happen and can cause detrimental backlash. Last year, there were quite a few that swept across the nation and left a big impression. Here are a few of the biggest PR disasters of 2017:

Adidas: Choose your words carefully

Following the 2017 Boston Marathon, Adidas sent an email to participants of the race with the subject line, “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!” It’s safe to say this email hit close to home for many people and wasn’t thoughtfully planned out.

United Airlines: Words and actions have immense power

After the removal of a passenger due to overbooking, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz made it worse in his follow-up statement by saying, “I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers.” After intense backlash, he promised to do better and “fix what’s broken,” but not before consumer perception dropped to a decade low.

Dove: Messaging can be negatively interpreted, even if it has good intentions

Dove released their “Real Beauty Bottles,” a limited-edition run of six different shaped bottles to represent how women are “one-of-a-kind – just like you.” Critics said that women’s bodies couldn’t be defined. The company also released a video that featured a black woman taking off a shirt and turning into a white woman. The white woman then does the same and turns into another woman. This message was interpreted very negatively on social media as Dove was accused of white-washing the black woman in the advertisement. Dove apologized and said that they “missed the mark” with the video. Both of these had adverse reactions, but Dove was quick to address the issues.

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