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Good and Bad PR: Peta’s beef with M&S, Rishi’s sheep and McDonald’s robot

We are back and raring to go. Once again it has been a monster week in the world of communications. Hold on to your hats and let’s take a mosey through the goings on of the last seven days…

Political shenanigans a plenty

My weekly review of election PR campaigns so far is that it has been fairly even on the cock-ups front. No matter what the Labour lovie’s say, Kier wearing a plain white t-shirt for the England game was just odd and clearly trying to pacify the Welsh and Scottish voters. I polled around our office, packed with Gen Z and millennial mixes and 95 said it was clearly a political gesture.

It has been no easy week for Rishi either though. The video of him and Lord Dave of Cameron trying to feed some sheep during a PR photo opp became farcical when the sheep bolted and left them for dust. Maybe the pigs got chatting with the sheep, and warned them off given Dave’s alleged historic farmyard antics.

As for Ed Davey, I was disappointed that he was not captured doing something on water this week, but all was not lost. For whatever reason (we will never know why) a historic video of him tipsy outside a pub, captured by a muggle (that’s Harry Potterism for a human), and chatting about the negative impact of Brexit has resurfaced. It is now doing the rounds on TikTok where political bots are liking and reposting to each other.

Those are the Russian droids you are looking for

After once accidentally upsetting a terror group via a similar PR column that resulted in “things” being sent to my house (no really), I am going to tread carefully here.

A number of US voter-influence bots on Twitter/X, apparently controlled by some folk in Russia and made to look like just your normal average American person, fell over this week. It turns out they were using elements of ChatBLT to mass coordinate the bot accounts who were, by and large, historically posting pro-Trump content.

For whatever reason (not paying the AI bill) the accounts started posting error messages in the Mothership language of, you guessed it, Russian.

Internet wags made jokes about the FSB, laughing and joking along, as the bill was clearly paid by that point. They then got back to doing what they do best, supporting and posting about the big Donald himself.

To be clear, I am not saying this is Russian government or FSB controlled. I expect it is just a few kids mucking about on their Sputnik Sinclair 28k computer.

Can I get an IBM McBot with that order please?

All in all, a tough PR week in the world of AI. After the Russian government definitely did not have anything to do with the above story, McDonalds has also now canned off some of its own AI deployment.

One hundred American restaurants have been trialling an IBM built AI ordering tool that is used in its drive-throughs. The tool was conceived and launched in 2019 and has had a rocky deployment.

McDonalds finally had enough and pulled the plug after an increasing number of clips, showing the automated orders going wrong in a comedic way, went viral on TikTok etc.

It is interesting to note that, once again, McDonalds has demonstrated why it is considered by many (including myself) to be a comms leader by refusing to throw IBM under the bus. Before you could say “IBM Watson was a gimmick”, McDonalds quickly canned the AI tool with a short announcement, assuring its customers that it would continue to try and innovate with new technology where it can, but AI drive-through tech was no more.

Electrical Safety First hit the headlines hard

It is nice to give a good PR gong to a comms team who play such an active part in the online PR community. Electrical Safety First really are saving lives and their recent campaign aims to change the laws and regulations about e-bike and e-scooter batteries.

It uses a heartbreaking case study story, is a fine example of comms 101 and shows exactly the positive difference our industry can make on society.

Kudos to the Electrical Safety First comms team for how it handled the story and all the media coverage it gained.

M&S Getting Alpaca Flack after PETA Attack

Marks and Spencer have had a big week. Some are a bit good, some a bit, erm controversial. First the good. According to those people who track these kinds of things, the shocking weather has meant that sales of soup have shot up.

As everyone knows, only Nanna’s and the infirm eat soup, and as everyone also knows, M&S food makes the best soup and is a big favourite of this audience (and younger audiences too, hence the big recent sales jump).

Nanna’s also love warm clothes and it does not get much warmer than Alpaca wool. I know this because I have a poncho made of Alpaca wool, because why; I am that cool. It is nice to wear around a fire pit on those late summer nights.

So, M&S cancelled out its previous 2020 ban on Alpaca wool-based products and brought it back. Peta, the weirdy-animal-bothering types, also nicknamed “San Marino” in my friendship circle as they kick off every 5 minutes, have not taken the news well.

Peta claimed that M&S customers will turn their back on the brand because of the reintroduction. They have clearly not seen a Nanna in action in M&S.

Let me tell you of a recent militant-Nanna example, and how nothing gets in their way.

We have a large shopping complex as a client and it has a M&S.

Over the Christmas period, the shopping centre had to be evacuated when a suspect package was found. The Nanna-brigade were not having that stop them from visiting their favourite store.

Two of them linked together, barged past the security people and booted the suspect package as hard as they could. A few cans of food rolled out; nothing suspect at all.

Then, they all piled in. Presumably in search of soup and Alpaca wool clothing. This is why we won wars.

M&S, you are winning and get my final Good PR of the week.

Written by Andy Barr, owner of 10 Yetis Digital

Got it right or wrong? I don’t really care, but do feel free to let me know. You can find me over on The Twittering X, @10Yetis. Hoorah, thank you and, onwards.

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