Virgin Mobile removes “tasteless” Twitter campaign in wake of Paris shootings

Virgin Mobile removes “tasteless” Twitter campaign in wake of Paris shootings


Virgin Mobile has removed a promoted tweet containing crosshairs and the words “on the hunt for a new telco?” in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris over the weekend.

The telco received numerous complaints from Twitter users who said the tweet was “tasteless” and poorly-timed.

“Could you have picked a worse moment to ‘promote’ a rifle scope?” one Twitter user wrote.

“Maybe not the best ad right now with mass shooting in Paris,” another person said.

Virgin Mobile responded to individual tweets on Saturday morning, thanking people for their feedback and letting them know the tweet in question has been removed.

According to Virgin Mobile, the tweet was originally promoted on November 3, well before the Paris shootings that killed more than 130 people and injured many others.

This is not the first time a large company has come under fire for offending people in the wake of an international tragedy. In 2012, fashion label Celeb Boutique launched a dress called Aurora at the same time was a mass shooting during a screening of a Batman movie in the city of Aurora. The fashion label sent a tweet that said, “#Aurora is trending [on Twitter], clearly about our Kim K inspired #Aurora dress.”

Meanwhile, a Victoria-based insurance firm apologised last year for trying to promote its business via Google Adwords in the wake of the Malaysia Airlines tragedy.

Sean Callanan, co-founder of Chunky Media, told SmartCompany businesses need to have a policy where someone reviews scheduled social media posts during an international tragedy to avoid inappropriate content.

“If you’re rolling something out or pushing out a campaign you need to be checking things,” Callanan says.

“That’s the problem Virgin Mobile ran into – that was an old tweet. It wasn’t like they tweeted it over the weekend, but it was sitting in their promoted account.

“So the important thing to do is just go in and pause things and reassess. That’s one of the issues with scheduling things.”

Callanan says if something gets published during a tragedy that offends people, it’s important to act quickly.

“The important thing is to remove it, apologise and move on,” he says.

Social media expert Dionne Lew agrees, saying it’s “common sense” for businesses to review what they’ve scheduled on social media when there is a world – or state – crisis. 

“We can understand things differently in different contexts, so it’s important to be sensitive,” Lew says. 

“It is wise to be sensitive to mood, sensitive to context and global affairs.”

A spokesperson for Virgin Mobile told SmartCompany the promoted tweet was removed as soon as its team became aware of the Paris shootings. 

“Our thoughts are with the people affected by the events in Paris and Beirut this weekend and we’d like to offer our sincere apologies for any offence caused,” the spokesperson said. 


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