Businesses such as Target and Virgin are being named and shamed online on a blog designed to call-out companies using the ANZAC centenary to market their products and services.
The blog, called Poppies for Profit, publishes screenshots of advertisements and online promotions by companies selling Anzac memorabilia and offering discounts to customers for the anniversary of the Gallipoli landing.
The blog’s owner told SmartCompany’s sister site Crikey he decided to launch the venture after receiving an email from Virgin airlines commemorating the centenary of the First World War by offering holidays from $342 per person.
“Last year a similar email from Qantas came out offering an Anzac Day wine special, and there was outrage,” he said.
“Anzac Day has become Mothers’ Day or Valentine’s Day – another annual marketing sacrament. The resistance to it has slowly eroded over the years, and now the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli seems to have inoculated us against how tacky it is to profiteer from war dead.”
Retailers, telcos and even media companies are also named and shamed on the blog.
— MicheleS (@MicheleS_Aus) April 9, 2015
A post about Target, for example, shows a women’s T-shirt for sale for $20 inscribed with the logo “Lest We Forget Camp Gallipoli”. However a spokesperson for Target told SmartCompany all profits from the T-shirts go to the Camp Gallipoli Foundation.
Ancestry.com is also named on the blog for offering customers a free trial in order to search for their “WWI ANZAC ancestors”.
A spokesperson for Virgin Australia told SmartCompany Virgin Australia is an official partner of the Australian Defence Force Trust.
“Virgin Australia Holidays is supporting travel to the Melbourne Museum’s World War One Exhibition which is being brought to Australia from the United Kingdom’s Imperial War Museum as part of Anzac Day commemorations,” the spokesperson says.
Many businesses have come under fire in the past for commemorating Anzac Day through online promotions or social media blunders.
In 2012 Australian publisher Random House provoked online backlash after sending a tweet at 11am to coincide with the minute’s silence to commemorate those who died in WWI.
“In honour of our fallen heroes we’re giving away a selection of war books,” the tweet read.
The post was soon deleted and the company later apologised for the offence it caused.
Trevor Young, marketing expert and founder of Expermedia, told SmartCompany brands need to be mindful of their social media presence and monitor what is being said about them.
“If there is a lot of backlash on social media, then brands need to be monitoring what’s being said and sort out the real concerns from those stirring up trouble,” Young says.
“But it would be folly to assume that just because it’s on Twitter that it’s people stirring up trouble. So this really highlights the need for brands to be ever vigilant in their listening to what’s going on on social media and to try to understand the nuances of what’s being said.”
Young says businesses must be careful in their approach to marketing their products off the back of a news story.
“You need relevance and a full understanding of the issues before you jump in,” he says.
“Is it going to be worth your while? It’s one tweet that might sound pretty clever at the time, but is the upside going to be there? If there’s any hint of a downside, it’s just not worth it.”