TGI Fridays’ Mistletoe-Carrying Drone May Be a Public Relations Casualty

If there is one thing that marketers crave but is beyond their control it is to be viewed favorably by the media, such as news reporters and bloggers. Consequently, for leading marketing organizations, maintaining a healthy relationship with the media is one of the most important goals of their public relations efforts. And as we note in our Public Relations tutorial, the reasons marketers often bend over backwards to please the media is that when members of a target market are exposed to a story written or broadcast by what they perceive as trusted media, they often believe what the news media says.  For the marketer who is the focus of the media’s message, this can help establish a potentially high level of credibility for the company.

To get into the good graces of the media, some companies bend over backwards to make sure media members are exposed to the goods or services they are promoting. For instance, one way to expose reporters or bloggers to a firm’s offerings is to invite them to a location where they can sample products, watch consumers consume the company’s products, or, best of all, consume products themselves. Of course, as media members are exposed to the products, the marketer’s PR person will hover and try to influence them by continually explaining how great their products are compared to competitors’ products.

Unfortunately, there are instances when exposing the media to a company’s products can prove to be a bad idea. For example, sometimes a member of the media will sample a food or beverage that was not at the level the marketer promoted resulting in a poor product review. Or a magazine’s interview with a company executive does not go well leading the reporter to wonder about the executive’s managerial skills. Or maybe a product just fails when a reporter is exposed to it. That is what appears to have happened to restaurant chain TGI Fridays. As discussed in this Time story, TGI Fridays is currently running a major television advertising campaign featuring a drone that flies mistletoe around the restaurant with the goal of hovering above loving couples. Unfortunately, when a media crew was invited to watch the drone in action, this flying machine malfunctioned and ended up cutting off the tip of a photographer’s nose.

Obviously this is not good publicity and will likely be the butt of jokes on late-night shows. That cannot be good for T.G.I Fridays, so it will be worth watching whether they end up pulling their drone ad.