Was it Gay for the Onion’s ‘It’s Gay to smoke’ video to be removed from YouTube?

Claire Stokoe

As a social media engineer I constantly talk about involving the community, after all without the community there is no ‘social media’, but what happens when the core of what drives a medium, turns on it?

A colleague of mine forwarded me an article this morning from utalkmarketing entitled “Smoking is Gay’. Fake PSA campaign that could actually work".

The article was discussing a recent story by the Onion websites fictitious breakfast news show, ‘Today Now’. The show had a Fake doctor from the 'Centre for Disease Control and Prevention' Dr Michael Gaines taking about their new campaign to stop teens smoking.

“Were saying, understand that if you choose to smoke, people are going to make fun of you for looking like a Q***r” Doctor Gaines tells the ‘Today Now’ presenters.

The Faux campaign was made as a reaction for Conservative congressional staffer who said “Porn makes you Gay”. The video was very funny, if watched on the Onions website next to other titles such as ‘Genetic Scientists Develop Sheep with the Brain of a Goat’ and ‘Breaking News: Bat Loose in the Congress’. I personally dislike the use of the word Gay as mean

New Anti-Smoking Ads Warn Teens 'It's Gay To Smoke'

But what did make me stop and think, was the fact that the Utalkmarketing headline hinted that a campaign like this ‘could actually work’.

I then did another search and found that the video had been written about on a whole host of other sites, some that didn’t go into detail of what the Onion was or that the video was in fact meant to be a joke.

One comment that I found on one such site said:

“The point is the video is going to be circulated beyond those that regularly read the Onion and therefore an ambiguous message is dangerous”

I thought this was a very interesting point, after all, as marketers do we stop for one minute to consider the affect of our campaigns, not that I am saying we regularly create bigoted content, but I am sure that the Onion, didn’t intend to offend a whole load of gay people, they made a marketing decision based on current news.

Someone however did respond to the negative feedback from YouTube, as the video was removed from their YouTube account. This was done, much to the annoyance of their users who posted a whole host of hateful slurs, absolutely convinced that the Gay community had had the video removed and were therefore leftwing so'n'so's (that's the tame version).

So in fact, where there is no recognised editorial authority. Who is running the show? And if in fact the Onion believed that this content had enough integrity to post it to YouTube, why was it later removed, and if the content is so offensive not to host on YouTube, why not remove it from the Onion’s website also? if in fact it was the Onion who removed it, whew , aaaand if they did remove it, why single out the YouTube community alone?

Anyway, it got me thinking about my clients and how I would cope with a major negative onslaught against a piece of rich media they had created, which they had faith in and which the majority of their community liked.

I give you two examples and I’m not going to answer them as I’d like you too.

1) You have a client who sells fashion accessories; some of these accessories feature fur trims that are made of mink. Your client finds and article about wild mink pest control and how destructive the species is. They do their research and create an informative video; the video is added to YouTube and on their website in the information pages and goes down very well with their audience.

Social media Issue: A week later an animal rights movement begin to bombard the comments section on YouTube with pleas to remove the video as to not spread bad press about the animals. Two videos targeting your clients have already been uploaded and are sending more negative comments their way. The community have enjoyed the video and add their own comments apposing the animal rights group.

Social media Question: The client asks you if they should remove the video. What do you advise?

2) A client of yours that sells paddling pools, creates a funny video showing 3 of his nieces all dressed in Hijab and tunics and sitting in a paddling pool to cool off on a sunny day. Their customers love it, and find it really funny.

Social media Issue: The client has also added the video to YouTube where it receives a lot of very negative feedback from the Muslim community. The owner actually goes and comments on the Video saying that he himself is a Muslim and that he thought the video was very light hearted. The YouTube stream begins to get Racist slurs and the client is considering removing the video altogether.

Social media Question: What would you advise this client to do?

I would be really interested to get feedback on this, to see what other people think. After all if the wisdom of the crowd is destructive, how long can it be before it destroys the very element it is deemed to be promoting?

PS: i do not condone the use of the word Gay as a derogatory comment and people that do say it, should consider if they would say the term 'Black, Jewish or Muslim' in the same contex and if you wouldnt, then stop saying it. My use of it was simply to express a point, so i hope this does not offend anyone.











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