By Ciara Sebecke
In 2015, SeaWorld took to Twitter and opened up the floor to the public with the #AskSeaWorld campaign. They might as well have opened Pandora’s Box. Perhaps they were inspired by McDonald’s similar campaign the previous year, which also opened the floor to criticism and questions about pink slime, horse meat and suspicious ingredients. The difference between the successful McDonald’s campaign and the SeaWorld campaign was that McDonalds was prepared for these skeptical questions and answered them with honest answers, busting the false rumors circulating about their fast food chain. On the other hand, SeaWorld ignored the negative questions and even tweeted back at skeptics calling them “trolls.”
— SeaWorld (@SeaWorld) March 27, 2015
— SeaWorld (@SeaWorld) March 27, 2015
You would have thought the PR and Social media staff could have predicted all of the Twitter hate with movies like Blackfish, a skeptical documentary about killer whales, circulating the internet and appearing on Netflix only a year before. Considering that this campaign was launched during a time of controversy surrounding their brand you would have thought the goal was to dispel negative rumors. Apparently that is not what they had in mind because it was painfully obvious that whoever ran the SeaWorld Twitter account was NOT prepared to address these rumors and concerns.
Some examples of popular Tweets using the hashtag include, “does your company have this ‘get away with murder’ club? Is OJ there too? Do you guys talk over a seafood platter?” and “The last UK dolphinarium closed in 1993. Why are you persisting with a cruel & archaic business model that is clearly failing?” Honestly, what did they expect would happen? Who thought this was a good idea if they were not prepared to answer these questions? Do they not know that anyone can follow hashtags and view Tweets that they are tagged in?!
SeaWorld posted their answers on ask.seaworldcares.com, with no links to the original account on Twitter, and many (if not most) of the questions cited as “asked by: General Question,” or “Frequently Asked Question.” Even with many pitiful attempts to control the conversation and extremely selective answers, the public saw through their guise. Popular accounts like Peta using the hashtag to ask hard hitting critical questions made it hard to ignore SeaWorld’s current bad reputation. Peta even wrote a post on their blog about how bad the campaign was, and created a Parody video, If SeaWorld Commercials Told the Truth:
The campaign not only brought negative media coverage from Peta, but from other well-known sources such as CNN, Huffington Post, and Adweek. Several YouTube videos circulated with criticisms of the campaign, of SeaWorld, and of marine animal theme parks. A “whistleblower” from Seaworld was featured on The Daily Show shortly after the campaign. If anything positive came from this campaign it was boosted awareness of the cruelty within SeaWorld parks and of marine mammals kept in captivity.
Apparently the feud between Peta and SeaWorld still continues with THIS recent post from the SeaWorld website and accompanying Tweet:
PETA wrapped up another week of publicity stunts that do nothing to directly help animals. https://t.co/YGnH23U9Qg
— SeaWorld (@SeaWorld) February 14, 2016
What are your thoughts on SeaWorld and their current social strategy? Leave a comment below with your opinion on this #SocialFail!
Coffee, P. (2015, March 27). #AskSeaWorld Reputation Campaign Fails Miserably. Retrieved February 15, 2016, from http://www.adweek.com/prnewser/askseaworld-reputation-campaign-fails-miserably/111686
Coffee, P. (2015, June 18). PETA Has Words for SeaWorld in New Video. Retrieved February 15, 2016, from http://www.adweek.com/prnewser/peta-has-words-for-seaworld-in-new-video/115404
Cronin, M. (2015, March 25). SeaWorld’s New Twitter Campaign Backfires In Most Spectacular Way. Retrieved February 15, 2016, from https://www.thedodo.com/ask-seaworld-twitter-1058989271.html
Johnson, K. (2015, March 31). #AskSeaWorld Campaign’s Epic Fail. Retrieved February 15, 2016, from http://www.peta2.com/blog/ask-seaworld-twitter-fail/
Sola, K. (2015, March 27). #AskSeaWorld Twitter Campaign Pretty Much Goes How You’d Expect. Retrieved February 15, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/27/seaworld-twitter-fail_n_6950902.html
P. (2015, March 27). Watch: John Hargrove Takes Down SeaWorld on The Daily Show, SeaWorld’s #AskSeaWorld Campaign Backfires Spectacularly. Retrieved February 15, 2016, from http://www.peta.org/blog/watch-john-hargrove-takes-down-seaworld-on-the-daily-show-seaworlds-askseaworld-campaign-backfires/?utm_campaign=0315 John Hargrove Takes Down SeaWorld on The Daily Show, SeaWorlds AskSeaWorld Campaign Backfires Spectatularly Tweet
You Ask. We Answer. (n.d.). Retrieved February 15, 2016, from http://ask.seaworldcares.com/