The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

There’s Nothing Like A Crisis To Show How Good A Brand Really Is … Or Isn’t.
November 30, 2011, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

So as much as I read different magazines each and every week, there are a few that I make sure I check out every edition and that is ‘The Week’.

The Week is basically a compendium of the recent weeks news and is quite simply, awesome.

Anyway, the last page of the magazine is always an article that has featured in another publication and recently, they printed this:

It’s basically the story of a journalist who had her gmail account held ransom by a hacker.

Within the article, she talks about how [sorry George] Google had been no help.

She say’s …

“My hacker had given me better feedback than Gmail and Google. The company that presents itself as the friendly face of the web doesn’t have a single human being to talk to in these circumstances. The UK office just cut me off and, after a friend waited 20 minutes to ask the head of the US team if there was anything that could be done to help, they received a simple “nope”. When someone did bother to look into my problem [which was because a friend of a friend worked at Google] it took 5 minutes to fix”.

Now that’s all well and good, however when I was looking through the rest of the magazine, I saw this:

Yep, it’s an ad – by Google – about how to come up with a strong password.


Not a fucking chance.

I’ve never seen Google advertise in this mag before.

I’ve hardly ever seen Google use print to advertise fullstop.

And it’s pretty bloody amazing that on the very week that a magazine prints a story questioning their [1] security and [2] customer service, they decide to run a full page ad talking about how to come up with a more secure password.

On one hand I think the advertising team at The Week should be congratulated for obviously seeing the opportunity to make Google cough up cash [and an ad] but the fact Google fell for it is similar to brands that pull their advertising just because a niche consumer group has taken offense and started making loud noises about it.

Don’t get me wrong, the fact that this poor woman couldn’t get any help from Google is pretty shit – but to do an ad saying “how to choose a better password” makes them look even worse because even a village idiot can see they are doing it out of fear.

But what’s worse – at least for me – is what they did.

By running an ad about passwords, it feels like Google are attempting to shift all the blame about this situation on to this poor woman’s shoulders … inferring that if she’d chosen a better password, none of this would have happened and that not only makes Google look corporate and ugly, it shows they have completely failed to grasp the point she was actually making.

I appreciate no brand wants negative PR against them, but sometimes it’s worth taking it on the chin, learning from it and changing your policies … because churning out a knee-jerk reaction ad basically turns the whole sorry situation into an ugly US vs THEM situation which basically increases the odds of escalating the problem and making more people question the faith that have put in your brand.

A crisis is one of the best ways for a brand to prove itself to their audience – existing and potential. What a shame so many end up using it to demonstrate their pettiness, weakness, coldness and fear.


67 Comments so far
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The point’s a good one. Unfortunately, you may have leaped to the wrong conclusion as in the UK, at least, Google did a mail-out this weekend of an eight page booklet about security and passwords.

Regardless of that, I’m glad that George will be able to help me out if this ever happens to me.

Comment by John

i get the week too. that shit ran 3 fucking weeks ago which my highly powered computer tells me was before last weekend. stop creeping to get george to try and get invites to products theyll end up fucking closing within 6 fucking months. youre so fucking transparent.

Comment by andy@cynic

I never read The Week but I’m pretty sure it takes more than three weeks of meetings to get an ad produced.

Comment by John

pitches and crisis makes adland efficient. and stop fucking fighting it. even if this is part of some long term bollocks, they ran it early in a mag that wrote an article slagging them off. thats bollocks and george should be made to fucking pay. literally. he should give me all his cash. tight fucker.

Comment by andy@cynic

Oh yes, it never ceases to amaze me how efficient adland becomes when there is a hard-deadline for a pitch or a crisis. Mind you, it never ceases to amaze me how efficient client approvals are when there’s a crisis too.

Comment by Rob

and what the fuck is this “the points a good one” bollocks? im going to put it down to tiredness because otherwise you need a good seeing to. and i mean with a hammer not some hot bird.

Comment by andy@cynic

It’s a new approach I’m trying, as opposed to writng something pedantic like he means implying when he writes inferring. I put that down to his being from Nottingham.

Comment by John

not sure its fucking working.

Comment by andy@cynic

Who is? Damn recession.

Comment by John

who the fuck do you think you are with shit political jokes like that? ben fucking elton.

i fucking hated him. then he wrote that queen musical bollocks and now i need to kill him.

not you doddsy, youre safe if you quit the compliments and shit 80s jokes. just him.

Comment by andy@cynic

george. hes doing it again.

Comment by andy@cynic

so much for do no fucking evil.

nice to know i had an impact at happy palace.

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by Billy Whizz


Comment by Rob

fucking fucking parasite.

Comment by andy@cynic

and the ad is fucking shit.

Comment by andy@cynic

of course if the journo wasnt hot in an eastern european peasant done good kind of way, i wouldnt give a fuck.

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by Billy Whizz

I always thought George and Pete had the eyes of evil bastards.

Comment by Billy Whizz

in planning circles that would be called an insight or unplanning as campbell and auntie liked to call stating the fucking obvious.

Comment by andy@cynic

on the bright fucking side, campbells written a post pete cant be nice and fucking serious about.

Comment by andy@cynic

forest 0 leeds 4


Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by Rob

are you fucking kidding? its a gift from shit football playing god. think positively, at least youre less shit than when you had mcbrolly. look at me being all fucking supportive. what a fucking legend.

Comment by andy@cynic

Oh no. Lets

Comment by northern

Google have indeed been running these ads for a few weeks now, they’re in everything, including in the tube. Have seen this one before too – coincidence? You think not, which is an angle. Entirely plausible that of all the ads in the campaign they chose to run this.

It may be age but I can’t side with anyone saying there weren’t humans to help because I think it’s a ‘crisis’ that not just google has, but any other service carrying millions of users. Facebook aren’t brilliant at it either, Blizzard aren’t if you lose your Diablo or World of Warcraft password or you forget yourself logged in from an Internet cafe and someone steals it. Most forgotten password forms are a joke too.

Just a thought, nowhere is great and you can do a lot of damage to someone without having to steal their password anyway. If you want to pick on Google, teach it a particular search query (e.g ‘is a terrorist’) and it’ll start thinking that the name and noun after it go together and suggest them to anyone googling for that name – create associations where there aren’t any. If you happen to have a name that makes people anxious, well…

Comment by Andrea

ill remind you of that when youre in hospital needing a fucking operation and they say “theres no doctors around, youll have to google it”.

Comment by andy@cynic

If you’re not paying for it…

Comment by Andrea

I’m not suggesting we buy google keywords about hacked gmail accounts and direct them to George’s home phone number. I wouldn’t do that. But I know someone who would.

Good post Rob. And not just for the George/Pete bashing opportunity.

Comment by DH

now thats a fucking good idea. can you remember how many emails/sms campbell got when i did it last time? maybe its a record that needs to be fucking broken.

Comment by andy@cynic

There are two entirely separate issues being discussed here. One is related to company process and infrastructure, the other is brand management.

Whether Google’s campaign ran prior to this article is incidental, the impression it makes is not favourable.

It may be an unfortunate coincidence however Robert stated he had not seen Google advertise in this title before and experience tells me Google were most likely made aware of the proposed editorial prior to publication because ad sales people never want to destroy new relationships before they have begun. Just my view.

I have read Andrea’s comment a number of times and I am still unsure as to whether she is saying the journalist is to blame for her situation or whether Google have a case to answer for.

If it is the former, I could not disagree more strongly. Just because the digital powerhouses have poor customer service is not validation for treating people this way. Good customer service can be a competitive advantage and while there may well be some blame to be shared for the situation described in the article, that does not justify a wringing of hands by any organisation, especially one that prides itself on its human approach to the net.

Comment by Lee Hill

ive just backed you. can i have a fucking upgrade for vegas?

Comment by andy@cynic

thought not.


love andy.

Comment by andy@cynic

I don’t disagree Lee, but if they really were given the heads-up by the magazine, it would be an act of such crass incompetence to choose to run that ad (which is simply one of the pages in the booklet that came through my letter box last weekend and not something produced in response to the crisis) that I’d be amazed if they did it.

My personal experience of being unable to access a gmail account was much more positive, though largely because I had some details stored away in case the situation arose. Most people don’t do that because they don’t value free goods as much as they should. That is, of course, no excuse for the provider of free goods to offer inferior customer service to those who pay less for a servie. –

Comment by John

The easiest way to tell is if they run an ad in the next edition [which being in China, means I’ll get in 2 weeks]

If it’s in there, they probably knew … because there’s no way Google would give them more money if this happened because of some agency/magazine incompetence.

Comment by Rob

And what’s your view on Andrea’s view Mr D?

Comment by Rob

I didn’t really understand what Andrea was saying but as I meant to convey in my response to Lee, there’s no excuse for bad customer service – the question is what constitutes adequate customer service for a free product.

Personally, I think Google could do more to inform all account holders of what they need to do to safeguard their accounts and what they need to have to hand to facilitate the recapture of their account.

Comment by John

You raise a good point John … I wonder what would happen if a company said,

“Gmail is good and free – but it means they won’t spend too much cash on security or even people to talk to when it gets hacked. So come to us … for $1 a month, you get grade-A email security and a person to talk to should you ever need too”.

Hmmmmn ….

Comment by Rob

The flip side of the argument is that Google gets lots of data from these non-paying “customers” so there is some sort of customer-service obligation there.

Comment by John

There again, you’d have thought the same logic would apply to Forest’s defence but seemingly not.

Comment by John

still got a dignified silence from auntie and pete. or is it a scared as fuck gobshut?

Comment by andy@cynic

OK … so maybe this is all some weird coincidence & Google had – or was preparing to – launch this campaign anyway. But is that really the point?

OK, so it is part of the point … but should a company be able to wash its hands of responsibility when things like this happen?

Andrea seems to think so … I don’t.

For me, it’s a bit like parents blaming their kids bad behaviour on their school. I’m not saying this woman is blameless … maybe her password was ‘password’ … but I do think a company that wants to basically ‘own’ people’s digital life has some responsibility to keep things working, or at the very least, have a point of contact when things go wrong.

Just because many digital organisations behave this way does not mean it’s right. Infact this plays right into my presentation in Sydney a few weeks ago … if we only base our actions and decisions of people’s online habits, we are doing them – and us – a huge disservice as well as undermining the potential of how big and great we can really be.

As for the google ad? OK, so maybe in this case it’s a coincidence but I do find it interesting that the 2 main courses of action undertaken by many companies in this situation is either [1] Attack or [2] Keep Quiet.

I’ll give P&G and J&J their due, they tend to act quickly, efficiently and publically … they learn, or at least give the impression of it … which is a damn sight better than the situation being discussed in this article.

I obviously have a history with Google and know it’s full of really good and talented people … but we all fuck up from time to time and I hope they learn from this because ads are not the way to win support, doing good shit is.

Comment by Rob

Boring point of information – the good to know campaign (in collaboration with Citizen’s advice) launched October 18.

Comment by John

youre right doddsy. its boring.

Comment by andy@cynic

and that would mean the ad is even shitter.

Comment by andy@cynic

calm the fuck down campbell. you cashed the cheque. youre away clean and clear so stop fucking acting like youre pot of fucking gold is linked to how fucking liked the happy clappers at mountain view are. chill. and use your unfair millions to buy my loveshack, i need the cash for fucking nappies.

Comment by andy@cynic

But doesn’t Gmail already provide stuff? They know your IP address(es), basically they even have a thing at the bottom of the page that tells you where your account is signed in from. It’ll ask you to confirm if it’s you when it finds you on an IP address it doesn’t recognise – Facebook does the same, it asks you to name your friends by showing photos of them when you log in (happens if you go to China from Europe as far as I know). Google will (sometimes) tell you that suspicious activity was detected – if you try to login yourself and can’t remember your password.

Maybe I’m cynical but there already are so many things provided to stop your account from being stolen (insert your phone number, secondary email address etc.) that it doesn’t surprise me they have minimised the number of people allocated to help in case you become a victim. You could even get the police involved because at that point impersonating someone and stealing their identity is a legal offence as far as I know. Google has given up YouTube channel information on that basis

They’ve taken a more serious stance on internet safety recently (press ad reads something like ‘you wouldn’t let your front door open when you leave the house, so why would you do that with your account) but the way I see it (from having seen so many people get fraped, had their game accounts stolen, computers keylogged…there’s only so much you can do)

I do agree with attack or keep quiet thing – but keep quiet for too long and it’ll seem like you don’t have a stance on it. Attack and follow each individual case of lost password story in the news then?

If I were Microsoft/Hotmail I’d be out there like a porch light in the ghetto – but is there anyone out there to say we’re the email client/company that gives you peace of mind online? They might fare worse. Who knows!

Comment by Andrea

I know what you’re saying, but the password security system being used by so many companies is obviously not working given the amount of hacking that is going on and to be in a situation where people literally have no one to talk to – and when you do, they say they can’t help – just isn’t the way to build a brand of meaning and longer term or bigger term value.

As I said, I know there’s 2 sides to all this, but I hate the devaluing of customer service when at it’s best – and when people are empowered to do stuff of value – it can literally change a brand overnight.

Comment by Rob

I guess the question is not “Are we entitled to this support?” but “Can the brand and business benefit by providing this support?”.

The answer I think is definitely yes.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Crisis paralyze most brands. They are so afraid to face a crisis that instead of going out to seek more opportunities and new responses they tend to hide and blames others.

Just like most humans.

I can’t believe google can make such a stupid mistake.
ok, crisis for every brand, opportunities for everyone.

Comment by google-

Anybody else notice that if you squint your eyes, the lady kinda looks like Jill and the headline still works and clears up one of life’s mysteries this blog has not been able to crack…

Comment by niko

she fucking does if jill came from peasant stock done good.

Comment by andy@cynic

Pete? Pete? Can you hear me?

Comment by Billy Whizz

Interesting points all around. A lot of companies seem to think that bering online means you can cut customer service to absolute minimums.

You can, but you lead a dangerous line. Rather like the Forest offside trap.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I’m not too scared to make a comment and my comment is no comment.

Comment by Pete

Right now I don’t care about crisis planning.
I don’t even care about Leeds thrashing Forest.
We have a new French account exec, who looks like Marion Cotillard and sounds like, well, French.

Comment by northern

prove it

Comment by John

That I don’t care?
How she looks?
Or that she’s French?

Comment by northern

That she exists, first you claim Jessica Ennis is in your gym, now the French siren in the office – sleep deprivation can be a bugger.

Comment by John

are you fucking sure youre not related to berlosconi?

Comment by andy@cynic

I’m not taking unsolicited pictures of tottie for you to fiddle over. If you want porn, pay for it, or at least log on to Youporn

And I’m not claiming in any way they’re intrested in me

Jessica Ennis trains at the Sheffield Institute of sport, so do I.

Comment by northern

Yes … her training is running away from the bald Northern casanova who is continually trailing her.

Comment by Rob

and i get closer everyday

Comment by northern

Just for the record, there have been no Google ads of any sort in ‘The Week’ magazine since the edition where the above article was featured.

It either shows Google hate magazines that question their products/services or – given they never ran an ad prior to the article – it shows they have become [as I described] incredibly bad, not to mention obvious, at how they handle customer complaints.

Comment by Rob

You are all knowing.

Comment by John

he wouldnt have fucking said that if he was still waiting for his pot of fucking dirty gold. prick.

Comment by andy@cynic

then he wouldnt be able to say it if auntie fucking george had got happy clappy mountain in fucking order. planners. everyfuckingthing wrong in the world is because of them.

Comment by andy@cynic

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