You’re Fired

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I think we’ve all had “oh sh*t” moments in our careers, but only a select few of those came from when you actually thought you were doing something really awesome (which makes the fact that you screwed up even more painful).

The following story is true, but I’ve omitted the names of the companies (and the business they’re both in) so I don’t get any flak. Alright, here goes:

When I was working at an agency several years ago, one of our clients discovered that their primary competitor had mis-labeled one of their products and was falsely representing what they were selling to the public.

Our client, wanting to exploit this, asked that we create a smear campaign video and complementary social media campaign to raise awareness against this deliberate act of misconduct.

Well, we had quite some fun putting the campaign together. It involved me interviewing people on the street (think Michael Moore) and a supporting hashtag (it was pretty clever actually, in hindsight I was pretty proud of my wit) to call out the company for their mislabeled product.

We launched the campaign and within the hour got a cease and desist from the competitors legal team. After about ten minutes of shifting between panic and disappointment that we might need to scrap all our hard work, we pulled the video, severed ties with the client and had a whole mess to clean up.

We got so caught up in the cleverness of the campaign that we never considered the bloodbath that would ensue. To be honest, my gut always questioned the integrity of what we were doing, but I don’t regret it. They say any press is good press, amiright?


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Al is a marketer at HubSpot, a marketing software company in Cambridge, MA. He is the creator of Mink.

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