What is worse than a social media campaign that backfires? Try a censorship scandal.
Etisalat, the UAE's biggest telecommunications company, is now at the center of a firestorm, after their "Etisalat Challenge," which began as an invitation for customers to find better prices for mobile packages in the UAE, quickly backfired on Twitter. Articles covering the campaign's failure ran on Arabian Business and The National ... only to be pulled down.
While the original stories are gone, it's a digital world and they can't scrub all traces of the censored articles from the web.
The campaign's failure on social media, which probably would have been less interesting in a few days, is now the center of a censorship scandal that has bloggers and tweeters asking a lot of questions.
As for the original campaign, the company was off to a rocky start from the beginning. Etisalat hired a range of Hollywood and Bollywood celebrities to "challenge" UAE residents to accept their proposition, including Scottish actor Gerard Butler, Pakistani star Atif Aslam, Filipina actress and singer Lea Salonga and Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan.
Outside of the fact that many were confused as to why international celebrities were included in an Emirati telecommunications company advertising campaign, users began using the hashtag, #EtisalatChallenge, to vent their issues with the telecommunications company. People also found issue with the amount of bots that were tweeting out positive messages relating to the Etisalat Challenge, when users were so clearly hijacking the campaign with their own complaints.
In all, the tweets were pretty funny, we are not going to lie. Here are some of our favorites.
Some users found the light-heartedness in the #EtisalatChallenge:
While others decided to use this opportunity to find future employment.
Whatever the tact, this social media fail has quickly escalated into a censorship scandal. It will be interesting to see how, and if, Etisalat responds.
StepFeeders - do you work at Etisalat, The National or Arabian Business and have any insight about the request to take the articles down? If so, email us at alexandra (at) stepfeed.com.