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A Case for Ending Automation
By: Mike Bush
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Parts of this post may seem insensitive. They’re not meant to. Steven Sotloff is an American Hero, and should be recognized as such. His passing should be mourned, his life honored.

The folks at 20th Century Fox had a bad day.

Minutes after they launched a campaign called “National Headless Day,” aimed at promoting the DVD release of their show Sleepy Hollow, the awful video footage of the Steven Sotloff, the American Journalist who had been taken hostage by ISIS, showed up online.  

(Side note to this story for another day: people buy DVDs).

The TV show is based, of course, on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which has a headless horseman as the main antagonist. The show’s marketers released their campaign via email, eCard, and social media, and quickly realized that their timing was, well, awful.

Fox immediately apologized.

In this situation, there isn’t anything Fox could have done, and the company seems to have handled things as well as they possibly could have (yes, there was some outrage on Twitter, as referenced in the first link; generally speaking, this could have been much, much worse).

Fox launched their campaign, and then was immediately trumped by something more important. It isn’t a “marketing fail” as was so eloquently referenced in one of the tweets in the first link. They simply couldn’t have seen it coming.

However, Fox seems to have been at least a little fortunate. Had their timing been an hour later, Fox would have been deemed the least appropriate company ever. And with marketing automation, plenty of companies have done just this type of thing.

Look, scheduling emails, tweets, and other posts makes life easier for marketers. And in turn, it puts us at risk of being tone deaf to real-time conversation. Fox acted as quickly as they could, and make the best out of a terrible situation. 

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About the Author
Mike Bush is a PR and Marketing freelancer with more than a dozen years of experience in the field. Find him on and connect Twitter @mikebush or at www.mikebush.nyc. 
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