Elle Mag’s Kimye breakup stunt spurs mad clicks, but angers readers

by | Oct 26, 2018 | Public Relations

Elle Magazine recently pulled a stunt that, while it earned them views, frustrated fans to the point that many were swearing to cancel their subscription and never read another article again. That stunt? Posting a message on social media that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West were “breaking up” along with a link to a photo.

But, instead of a photo, the link led viewers to a web page hosted by Elle encouraging users to be sure to register and vote. The gimmick was created in correlation with the nonprofit effort “Rock the Vote.”

Elle Mag’s Kimye breakup stunt spurs mad clicks, but angers readers

The response to the stunt was not what Elle expected

In fact, fans were in absolutely no mood for a joke and the entire thing blew up in the publication’s face—marring its reputation and Rock the Vote by proxy.

Social media fans endlessly mocked the post, calling it “trash” and “nonsense” and other, less polite, epithets. Others slammed Elle for its “lack of ethics,” or for misleading or “tricking” users in a way that completely detracted from the message to get out and vote.

Perhaps one of the most personal and user-appreciated responses was this one, in which a user called out Elle for backhanded sexism, bad assumptions about its customer base, and poor form: “Hot tip: Women are fully capable of being self-actualized people who can be interested in pop culture news AND the current political landscape… This is trash, and so is my newly-canceled subscription.”

While some users took the “joke” in stride, responding with good humor, the general response was on a spectrum somewhere from disgust to rage

Even fashion journalists and other opinion makers got in on the Elle bashing, calling it the worst kind of clickbait. Journalist Yashar Ali called it not only bad form, but stolen bad form: “When a random tweeter did this it was clever but now you’re just stealing their tweet and also spreading fake news…”

Elle Mag’s Kimye breakup stunt spurs mad clicks, but angers readers

So, now Elle was not only facing criticism for the bad idea, but also being mocked for stealing the bad idea from someone else. Many fans agreed, doubling down on their derision. It will be interesting to see what Elle does to dig out of this self-imposed public relations pit.

So… why did the “joke” fall flat?

Partly, it was because of the poor juxtaposition. These days, social media users are inundated with “get out the vote” messages. Much like football fans upset about politics intruding into their entertainment, people don’t want overtly political messages interrupting their favorite celebrity gossip.

Elle Mag’s Kimye breakup stunt spurs mad clicks, but angers readers

People want to escape, and they want “safe zones” for that escape. Instead, they felt duped and mistrusted, like someone was trying to trick them into being “responsible.” That’s demeaning, personally, and frustrating emotionally, especially when what you think is hot gossip is just another lecture. People tend to respond to that like a poke in the eye.

Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and Chairman of 5W Public Relations: 5WPR is one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.