On these pages, we love to chat about how big brands handle social media marketing meltdowns and snafus. Multi-billion-dollar corporations, it seems, have the same problems on Facebook that the rest of us do: crazy messages left on our walls, accidental fights breaking out over innocent topics and general misunderstandings blown way out of proportion — all in a way that can only happen on Facebook. So we were interested to see how mega-insurance powerhouse Allstate tried to put out a Facebook fire ignited by Women’s History Month and Rush Limbaugh.
A couple days back, Allstate harmlessly posted the question: “It’s Women’s History Month. What woman inspires you?” Undoubtedly, Allstate was looking for answers like “my mother” or “Golda Meir” but what it got instead was a firestorm of angry responses from women who were upset that the company advertises on Rush Limbaugh’s radio program. Limbaugh, in case you’ve been visiting your vacation condo under a rock, took some major heat last week for calling a Georgetown University student a “slut” because she supported health insurance coverage for contraception. ToppleBush.com published a list of advertisers who support Limbaugh’s program and Allstate was one of the heavy hitters.
But Allstate says they’ve never advertised on Limbaugh’s show and the ads that have aired have been a mistake. (Sears has similarly been charged with advertising on Limbaugh and also claims whatever spots have aired have been accidental.)
“We contacted the vendor that arranges for our advertising placements and discovered that an error had been made and advertising time had been mistakenly purchased for the show,” Allstate said in a press release. The insurance giant took further action to ensure its posts would not appear on Limbaugh’s show, as did other brands including like AOL, which pulled its advertising completely.
Meanwhile, the brand took to Facebook to clear up the Limbaugh mess directly. In a series of posts that interacted with Facebook users, Allstate discussed the programming mistake and its stance on Limbaugh. Of course, Facebookers will be Facebookers, and the fight over Limbaugh continued in the comments section of several posts.
In the end, Allstate faced the allegations head on and bravely hopped in the shark-infested Facebook waters. Do we buy the “Oops! We didn’t mean to advertise on Limbaugh’s show” excuse? Meh. It’s most likely a face-saving move… but when played using shrewd Facebook management, it’s a wise one, too.