Jason Del Rey

Recent Posts by Jason Del Rey

Real-Time Marketing Hits New Low, Starring Gogo and Justine Sacco (Updated)

Shutterstock/R. Gino Santa Maria

When will brands learn?

In a race to be crowned the next Oreo, it seems as though every week another advertiser makes a really dumb decision on social media, by trying to latch on to the issue of the moment.

Call it the drunk dialing of social marketing.

The most recent offender is in-flight Internet provider Gogo. The company — or at least the person manning its Twitter account — has decided that Justine Sacco’s terrible judgement is a fantastic marketing opportunity.

Sacco, of course, is the IAC PR head who on Friday posted this message to Twitter — “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” — and then went silent, supposedly because she was on an international flight.

Cue Internet frenzy, and then, a few hours later, Gogo’s classy response:


It’s one thing to chime in during a blackout during the Super Bowl. But I can’t fathom why any brand would want to associate itself with Sacco’s tweet — which, again, anyone with any common sense finds deeply offensive.

I asked the person running Gogo’s Twitter account what they were thinking, but they don’t seem interested in any more real-time conversation. Earlier, though, the Gogo account did defend itself to a Twitter user named Douglas Crets.

I asked Gogo’s spokesman for comment late Friday night. He hasn’t responded.

Update 9:35 am ET: On Saturday morning, Gogo responded on Twitter with an apology to Sacco.

Gogo spokesman Steve Nolan just spoke to AllThingsD and said the company is reviewing how such a tweet saw the light of day.

“We feel it’s not our role to engage those types of borderline topics to raise some activity in social media,” he said. “Our policy is pretty simple: To try to keep people informed or connected in-flight. It’s more of a customer-care operation than to try to stir the pot.”

Nolan said that despite some positive reaction to the tweet, “It’s not what we want for the brand in social media.”

Update 7:50 pm ET: Sacco’s employer IAC issued a statement on Saturday evening. “We take this issue very seriously, and we have parted ways with the employee in question,” part of the statement read. At the same time, the company seemed to call for some level of compassion toward Sacco: “We hope, however, that time and action, and the forgiving human spirit, will not result in the wholesale condemnation of an individual who we have otherwise known to be a decent person at core.”

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