Written by Andrea Berendsen, AAE of Thorp School District
On April 12th 2016 Sprint unveiled a new campaign titled, “the Listening Tour.” They set out to meet with hundreds of people in focus group-like settings in order to ask them real questions and receive real answers. Unfortunately, some of these answers were a little “too real,” and Sprint did not get the memo.
According to PR Week, Sprint released one of their new video Ads on their twitter which in turn, had a very large backlash from the consumers and the media after one woman stated that she thought T-Mobile was “ghetto.” This prompted them to remove it less than 24 hours after posting it and lead to many angry consumers.
The Listening Tour was set up by Marcelo Clure, the carrier’s CEO, who tweeted at T-Mobile, stating, “Honest answers from real people on my #ListeningTour across the country. Sometimes the truth hurts.” This quickly turned into a PR nightmare as many people angrily took to social media to express their opinions.
The idea of a listening tour seems innocent enough, of course we all know phone carriers are always sending somewhat negative or demeaning messages about their competitors through their ads, but this time was different. It was different not only because bashing businesses can sometimes make people feel uncomfortable, but because he allowed the word “ghetto” to be said in a professional setting. Regardless of the fact that the woman said it herself in the focus group, he allowed it to be aired and by doing so, offended many people.
He attempted to apologize with a tweet, stating that he was taking the video down but one man, Luis Medina, was still not satisfied. He tweeted, “you are just another suit. That video was disrespectful to all of us low-middle class Latinos.” Clure then responded by saying, because he was Latino as well, that Medina couldn’t “pull that card.” This made the situation worse because he essentially took back his apology and escalated the problem.
Later it was expressed that he should have known better than to post the ad because of his background, not in spite of it. Clure eventually said “you are right,” in an effort to deflate the situation that he had initiated.
David Tovar, VP of corporate communications, also came in giving an apology. Tovar addressed the situation by confirming, “We reacted quickly, we took the post down, we apologized for it, and we learned from it, In hindsight, we wouldn’t post that today because of the reaction we got for sure.” This apology seemed to calm the situation, but in my opinion, it seems as if he is apologizing for the media and customers being upset, not for what was said to offend people.
This all goes to show that as a large company like Sprint, you must be careful what you post because it can have serious consequences on your future sales and customer base. Simply because you think something is comical does not necessarily mean everyone else will. Sticking with the simple ads that everyone can enjoy (like their screaming goat ad) is most likely going to be their best bet for the future.