What Evil Lurks In The Hearts Of Tweeters

Maybe futurist and text-to-speech pioneer Ray Kurzweil can solve the problem of spokespeople who don't follow the script. What used to keep marketers awake at night was the worry that one of their celebrities would get into a lascivious scandal or some other personal issue that didn't gibe with their product's image. Nowadays they've got to watch the Twitter feeds and voicemails of every junior employee and spokesduck voiceover artist, 24/7.

Michelle Morrison reports in this morning's Ad Age that Aflac is turning its firing of comedian Gilbert Gottfried over insensitive remarks he tweeted about the tsunami in Japan into an open casting call for a replacement on Monster and QuackAflac.com. You can apply online with a video or audio clip or audition live in some major cities April 4 or 5.

"We wanted to open this up to well-known talent as well as undiscovered talent to see what we might get," says an Aflac spokeswoman. "Agents tell us that when they make a call to customers, people can't say Aflac without quacking it."

Problem is, you don't know what else a human being is apt to quack in a fit of wackiness. Last April, GEICO fired one of its voiceover artists (not the gecko) for leaving a voicemail on the line of Tea Party group FreedomWorks that asked, among other things, for "the percentage of people that are mentally retarded who are working for FreedomWorks and who are following it."

Then there's Scott Bartosiewicz, who tweeted: "I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to [f-word deleted] drive." He was summarily canned, and then Chrysler fired his company, New Media Strategies, too. Looking back on the incident, Bartosiewicz apologized and said he understood Chrysler's position but that "it's unfortunate (all of my work is) being overshadowed by 140 characters."

Bob Garfield had the right take on the incident when he wrote that Chrysler fired Bartosiewicz "for being funny." He goes on: "Fired him for being spontaneous. Fired him for being relevant. Fired him for alighting ever so gently, like a canary taking its perch, on a dowel of human truth. You know -- the way social media is supposed to be, because the whole point of it is to discard archaic and abrasive concepts of messaging in favor of actual conversations."

Perhaps you also saw the piece about the Atlanta sports radio producer who was fired for criticizing hometown airline Delta with a few tweets such as, "The bean counter who saved Delta a few bucks in st. lou hoping he wouldn't need more de-icing fluid this year screwed a lot of people today."

By the time he'd touched down, he was gone after Delta purportedly threatened to pull its advertising from the station. Someone posted on Facebook over the weekend: "[Sprint's] Dan Hesse may be the best CEO spokesperson since Lee Iacocca," linking to this new spot for its Simply Everything Plan. (I'd give her credit but it's too early in he morning to be knocking on Facebook.)

A few dissenters mentioned that Dan seems a bit creepy in the winter overcoat he's wearing, and there may be some truth to that, but I've got to agree about his earnest impact. (I mean, you want to talk creepy, let's talk Frank "It Takes a Tough Man To Make a Tender Chicken" Perdue.) Or, for that matter, "Hef.")

Every time I hear one of the Sprint chief's spots, I think about converting to his cause. The only thing stopping me, in fact, is that such an endeavor seems more complicated than the college application process. And, yeah. Who knows what he's really tweeting?

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4 comments about "What Evil Lurks In The Hearts Of Tweeters ".
  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , March 28, 2011 at 8:53 a.m.

    If everyone can comment on people and things without thinking about what they are saying first, then how irresponsible and selfish people we are training. Twits are for twits. If what you have to say is that important, then write in proper full sentences with full thought processes which can be accomplished in one word to a discourse.

  2. Thom Forbes from T.H. Forbes Co. , March 28, 2011 at 10:02 a.m.

    You may be right, Paula. Meanwhile, Time has put out a list of the "140 Twitter feeds that are shaping the conversation." http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/completelist/0,29569,2058946,00.html#ixzz1Hu10vqVy Harvard Business Review is on it. Then, too, so is Justin Bieber.

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , March 28, 2011 at 10:06 p.m.

    Yes, Thom ! The Homer Simpson twit. That's the ticket !

  4. Richard Monihan , March 31, 2011 at 11:56 a.m.

    I've not been a fan of Twitter. I agree with Paula that a full thought process makes for a better commentary. That said, sometimes simple opinion is being overly analyzed in our society and yielding less than rational reactions.

    The overwhelming availability of comments, commentary, and information has created a culture of knee-jerk and immediate reaction that is sometimes obtuse. But as obtuse as it may be, sometimes it takes on a life of its own and becomes "real".

    There was something I was told when I first entered the industry - "If you repeat a rumor often enough, it becomes real." I see the very same thing happening with some (not all) social commentary currently taking place. We feel the need to react to everything, when sometimes the best reaction is none at all.

    Then again, one could say that in certain cases (such as Gottlieb's), the best course of action is to not Tweet at all.