Why Coke Should Have Known Its "2 Girls 1 Cup" Campaign for Dr Pepper Was a Disaster Waiting to Happen

Last Updated Jul 21, 2010 2:22 PM EDT

The most telling part of Coca-Cola (KO)'s cancellation of its Dr Pepper Facebook promotion is that the company admitted it signed off on the text of the campaign without knowing what "2 girls one cup" actually means. Coke is an old company and Facebook is a new trend: What happened here is the marketing equivalent of parents trying to show their teenage offspring that they're trendy too, with all the awkwardness that implies.

Although Coke has apparently fired the ad agency that created the campaign, Lean Mean Fighting Machine, Coke has no excuses: LMFM advertises its profane campaigns -- including one in which the U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron is manipulated into saying a four-letter reference to female anatomy -- on its web site.

To recap: Dr Pepper invited Facebook users to allow it to take over their status updates in return for a chance to win $1,000. LMFM then posted embarrassing messages such as "What's wrong with peeing in the shower?" (Why Coke would allow its brand to be associated with urine, even in jest, is a whole other case study. The point here is that Coke got a heads-up to the increasingly juvenile direction of the campaign.) One of the status updates was, "I watched 2 girls one cup and felt hungry afterwards."

If you're scratching head as to what that means, you're in the same camp as "Mrs Rickman," who complained about it on MomsNet.com and started the debacle:
My 14 yo dd participated and I was HORRIFIED to log into FB and see that her status read - 'I watched 2 girls one cup and felt hungry afterwards'. For anyone who doesn't know what this means, please stay ignorant, for those who do, you can imagine how I felt. This was compounded later on when a quick search through dds internet history revealed she had tried to find out what it was for herself.
Reader beware: The porn video in question is too disgusting to describe here. (Interestingly, plenty of the other moms in the comment string knew exactly what the video is about.) Coke said:
We were unaware of the meaning of this line when the promotion was approved and have launched an investigation into why it was included. We take full responsibility and will be reviewing our promotional procedures.
The crucial error here is that with 160,000 Facebook fans signed up for the campaign, Coke didn't want to admit to the trendy copywriter at LMFM that it didn't know what "2 girls" is. It's an error that was preventable because LMFM was the agency responsible for the "Speechbreaker" election campaign by the Liberal Democrats, currently part of Britain's coalition government. In that effort, users are presented with a list of fridge-magnet-type words uttered in various speeches by Cameron, the U.K's new leader and now the Lib-Dems' coalition partner. Once you've arranged them in a pleasing fashion, you can save it to YouTube and the highly edited Cameron does your bidding (video below). One of the words available is something which Cameron probably only said as part of the word "country." In the example on LMFM's own website, Cameron says of the previous U.K. prime minister:
I believe Gordon Brown is a second-rate cunt.
(You can click to enlarge this screengrab of Speechbreaker, which shows the C-word as one user option. The site will surely disappear when Cameron's people see that the Lib-Dems are making him say rude things.)

Coke's "we were unaware" excuse is therefore threadbare: The client, having hired an agency with a history of profane campaigns, is now shocked -- shocked! -- to discover that it paid for a profane campaign.

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