Pathmatics Blog

Samsung’s Recall Woes, Dieselgate and More: How Brands Advertise During a Crisis

October 08 2016
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All press, is not good press. This is according to some brands that have reacted to negative scandals by pulling their ads across channels. Samsung is one of the more recent brands that has had to deal with a very public recall on not one, but two products in the last couple months. First, the Galaxy Note was recalled in the beginning of September and if that wasn’t bad enough, their top-loading washing machines were recalled at the end of the same month. Coincidentally, Samsung pulled their digital ads for each product just before the recalls broke.
 
This isn’t the first time a scandal has forced a brand to pull its ads and try to dodge more unwanted attention. Just over one year ago, it was announced that Volkswagen had cheated diesel emissions test with software installed in their vehicles, prompting the notorious “Dieselgate” to follow. Just a couple weeks before the EPA announced their findings, all Clean Diesel ads by VW had disappeared online. Adidas also knows all too well that reacting in real-time is important when the international eyes are on your brand. Here are couple examples of how brands reacted online in the wake of scandals and recalls.
 

Samsung

We recently looked at the Galaxy Note 7 recall and how the issue affected their cross-channel digital advertising strategy. Ranking as the 8th top mobile spender for the month of August, Samsung spent a lot of money promoting its hyped new phone. But, by the time the recall hit the press on September 2nd, the creatives were already gone. We still have yet to detect new Note ads online.
 
Only a couple weeks later, Samsung had a different fire to put out (literally) - their top loading washing machines were recalled on September 28th. With headlines stating, US regulators warn customers about exploding Samsung washers,” the brand paused all of their washing machine digital campaigns online - even those unaffected by the recall. The entire campaign for Samsung’s AddWash front loading washer was paused on September 26th after running since June with relative high frequency. Makes sense that the brand isn't trying to bring any attention to their washing machines, we've since seen similarly styled creatives pop up for their smart fridge.
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Volkswagen

One of the most well-known recalls in recent history, “Dieselgate” and the surrounding Volkswagen emissions scandal is still proving to be tough on the brand. On September 18th, 2015 the New York Times reported that the Obama administration ordered Volkswagen to recall nearly a half-million of their “Clean Diesel” cars after installing software intended to evade emissions testing. The cars actually weren’t “clean” and after spending over $73K on display ads during July and August 2015 alone, VW began slowly pulling all of their digital ads by September 1st. By the time the news broke a couple weeks later, the creatives were long-gone. In the daily spend graph below, the automaker make one last big push on August 27th before spend trailed off completely. Besides one placement on September 7th, Volkswagen was radio silent on desktop beginning on August 29th. Volkswagen’s mobile creatives were also pulled at the same time.
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On video, the brand waited until the recall was made public before they pulled their creatives. This was also when the brand deleted all of their YouTube videos about the new model diesel car.
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Adidas

Adidas faced this challenge after a prominent figure in their World Cup ads for the 2014 games featured Luis Suarez. Less than 48 hours after the bite heard round the world, Suarez’s face was removed from creatives. Using Pathmatics’ real-time advertising insights, we can dissect the evolution of the creatives coming out of this scandal, day-by-day.
June 24th was the date of the match where Uruguay soccer star Luis Suarez took a bite out of an Italian defender’s shoulder. Prior to this, Suarez was one of the five main soccer stars in Adidas’ World Cup campaigns - gracing everything from their digital ads, billboards, bus stop signage, and more. The creative below ran on ESPN.com and ESPNfc.com starting on June 12th, before being pulled on June 26th:
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With Adidas clearly scrambling in figuring out how to react accordingly to the scandal, they pulled Suarez’s face and tried to enlarge another person’s face resulting in an odd looking creative. They must have agreed because the ad only ran for one day before they could find a better fix:
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The following day, a third version of the same creative popped out - this time using the original layout with a Suarez replacement.
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Any other big scandals or reactions we should look at? Let us know in the comments.
 

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About Author

Jordan Kramer

An out-of-the-box thinker with a love for disruptive ideas, Jordan's background spans PR and events for the wedding & hospitality industry in Los Angeles and Scottsdale and also launching one of America's most unique food trucks. She jumped from the food start-up scene to the tech start-up scene in 2013 to join one of the most unique companies in ad tech. Jordan is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication.