Delta Tweet Shows Perils of Real-Time Marketing

Another week, another social media snafu for an airline company. Two months after US Airways posted what will surely go down as the lewdest tweet from a business account of all time, it was Delta’s turn to take flight on the runway of incompetence.

The moment came after Monday’s World Cup soccer match between the United States and Ghana. The US won the game, 2-1, behind a last minute goal by John Brooks, AKA The Greatest American Since Abraham Lincoln.

In the opening minute of the game, Clint Dempsey stunned the world with the fifth-fastest goal in World Cup history. Twitter lit up like a hippie at Bonnaroo, and brands were determined to inject themselves into the conversation. That’s when Delta stumbled into the room like a drunk uncle and unfurled this astonishing gem:

The intent was to juxtapose two like images that symbolized the competing countries. To say the attempt fell flat would be like saying Vladimir Putin loves wearing shirts. Even if we pretend for a second that a giraffe is truly Ghana’s equivalent to the Statue of Liberty, and this isn’t the most patronizing photo mash-up ever, there’s still one tiny issue:

There are no giraffes in Ghana.

According to the Huffington Post:

“While Ghana is known for its rich culture, scenic beaches and forests, there’s one thing it’s not known for: giraffes. In fact, Twitter user @dcGisenyi figured out that the photo used in the Delta tweet was actually a stock image of a giraffe at the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, some 3,000 miles away.”

The mistake was noticed by Delta’s 700,000 Twitter followers, and ignited a torrent of fury powerful enough to start a Boeing 757. The tweet was accused of being racist, ignorant, patronizing and stereotypical. It was later deleted and replaced with an innocuous picture of a Delta napkin with a soccer ball and the word “Goal!!!” There was also this apology:

This wasn’t the first time a brand has been busted for showing poor tact on Twitter, and it won’t be the last. There’s almost nothing better for a brand’s social standing than a strong, real-time post that goes viral when Twitter is hopping. But for every feast, there’s famine.

Real time marketing isn’t easy, and I appreciate the quick wit and creative execution brands (or their agencies) show when it’s done right. Who can forget Oreo’s legendary Tweet during the infamous blackout of Super Bowl XLVII?

But when real-time marketing goes wrong, the brands deserve all the scorn that’s coming. And for this gaffe, Delta deserves quite a bit.

Better alert the air marshal.

Alex Altman is a freelance copywriter from Detroit, MI. He can be reached at
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