Snapchat snafu—“Slap Rihanna” ad draws ire of fans

by | Mar 21, 2018 | Public Relations

Domestic abuse is not funny. Not even a little bit—but some people do not seem capable of processing that thought. Case in point: the recent furor over a Snapchat ad asking if users would prefer to “Punch Chris Brown” or “Slap Rihanna.”

Sure, there’s room for edgy advertising, especially on social media. But there’s a pretty wide line between “edgy” and “felony battery.” And, since the ad was calling back to a specific criminal act – when, in 2009, Brown was convicted of assaulting Rihanna—there’s no way the creators can escape the comparisons.

The “choice” was presented as an ad for a mobile game called “Would You Rather,” which gives users a series of binary choices based on personal preferences. The ad itself might have gone entirely unnoticed if Rihanna has not seen it. But, the singer did see the ad, and this is what she wrote about it:

“I’m just trying to figure out what the point was with this mess! I’d love to call it ignorance but I know you ain’t that dumb! You spent money to animate something that would intentionally bring shame to DV victims and made a joke of it! Shame on you!”

It’s pretty easy to understand Rihanna’s reaction to the ad

No one wants one of their worst memories turned into a tasteless joke. And, what did Snap, Inc. have to say about the ad? They condemned the content and offered a mea culpa for allowing it to run in the first place: “This advertisement is disgusting and never should have appeared on our service… We are so sorry we made the terrible mistake of allowing it through our review process.”

Some are suggesting the entire incident is simply Would Your Rather’s version of creating a controversial story to get free publicity

The thinking, here, is that people will soon forget why they were mad, but they will remember the game and, maybe, decide to check it out. There’s some validity to this perspective. Game makers could draw people who are simply curious, people who thought the ad was darkly humorous, as well as those who like to go looking for things that might offend them.

But there’s a second edge to that sword

At present, Would You Rather is now blocked for advertising on Snapchat entirely. So, they will get the blip of publicity from this story, but may not benefit long-term.

But Snapchat may have gotten the worst out of the incident. Enraged Rihanna fans vowed to cancel their accounts by the legion, and they don’t appear to be mollified by the social media site blocking of the game. With all the stiff competition out there, and Snapchat being among the platforms that is still working out how to make more money, losing Rihanna’s fan base to Instagram or another social platform could prove problematic.

Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian founded 5WPR, a leading PR agency..