I was reading some ad news the other day and came across an article discussing Chrysler’s decision to part ways with their social media agency after an employee dropped the f-bomb in a tweet from the car manufacturer’s account.
The infamous tweet read:
@ChryslerAutos “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to fucking drive.”
Hehe. They said “fuck.”
After I stopped giggling, the whole situation left me thinking about the progression of language in culture, and specifically in social media. I couldn’t help but wonder at what point the f-word is going to become commonplace enough for established brands such as Chrysler to be okay with it? Or will it ever?
You have to understand that I, in no way, support the media agency’s employee flipping a written bird via client account, and he was right to get canned (which he did). But this all seems to be pushing an even bigger issue: Writing styles and tone of voice have to fit their intended audiences.
“Crap” is just about as naughty as “poo” at this point. So is it really that shocking to think we’re just a hop, skip and a cuss away from “F this” and “F that” plastering the Facebook and Twitter accounts of our favorite brands? And how big of a role does the media type play here? Is it more okay to curse in a tweet than it is a national commercial? Depending on the brand (obviously folks like Pampers and Life Cereal should probably keep it clean), I think the social media language barriers are far more lenient. So yes, it’s safe to say that brands have the freedom to get a little more casual online, as long as they stay within their brand voice.
I might even venture to say that in a world with such an ever-evolving vernacular, we have to be more open to the possibility that bad words are going to weasel their way into everyday speak. I know I can sometimes curse like a sailor, and in this industry, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a creative who doesn’t let their fuck flag fly on a pretty regular basis. But I think that’s okay. If I worked behind the counter at Whole Foods, would I cuss as openly as I do in a concepting session with my art director? Hell no.
In sum, I’m just saying that this Chrysler situation—and pretty much every situation in life—all add up to prove how natural it is for everyone (not just marketers) to understand the importance of knowing your audience and your venue. And if that means we have to watch our f&*%ing filthy mouths every now and then, so be it. The message will come across cleaner that way anyhow.