I Confess: I Truly Don’t Like Eating Chicken’s Feet
Posted on 27 May 2009
Phew! I seem to be embroiled in a little social media controversy, and it doesn’t feel good.
A few weeks ago I scored an acting gig after spotting a message on twitter from a Hong Kong PR firm that was looking for actors to perform in a series of short online promotional videos for the Langham Hotels group in Hong Kong. The whole campaign was themed “Visiting Hong Kong Is A Big Deal”.
So we spent a day filming at various locations around Hong Kong. My scenes involved me acting as a tourist new to Hong Kong, expressing distaste at being served chicken’s feet in a local “dai pai dong”, then eating a spring roll in the restaurant at the Eaton Hotel (part of the Langham group). All those scenes with me were edited down to a fast-paced, 1-minute 20-second video. Two other expat actors performed in other short videos.
The campaign then went online on the Langham Hotels website, and I invited all my friends and relatives around the world to watch it. The rave reviews came flooding in: “Very funny! I loved your facial expressions.”, “Too funny… I love it!” and “You are great in this ad. LOL.”
The campaign was also promoted on twitter by me, Langham Hotels and the PR firm. And then the shit hit the fan. Lots of people in Hong Kong started blogging and tweeting vehemently negative comments about all three episodes in the campaign, accusing Langham Hotels of insulting Hong Kong and Hong Kongers.
What hurt me was that several people made personal attacks against me on twitter and various blogs, and even sent me private e-mails, accusing me of being racist and demanding that I explain the client’s reasoning behind the campaign. But ouch! Jeez, folks, I was just an actor hired for a few hours to play a role! I was not hired in my capacity as a marketing consultant, and I had nothing to do with devising the concept or managing the campaign. (Is that an acceptable defence? Or am I as culpable as the Auschwitz guards who insisted they were just following orders?)
Check out some of the blog postings, and the comments on those blog postings, here and here and here and here. (I’m not sure how long the original videos embedded in some of those blog postings will continue to be viewable online. I’m in Episode 2.)
As a result of all the negative publicity, Langham Hotels decided to axe the campaign and has removed the videos from their website. According to one of the blog postings, the company commented in an official statement: “While we’re pleased that we’ve generated discussion in the forums with the videos we’ve created, we were disappointed that the satirical tone of the videos was misunderstood in some circles. As a result of the potential to magnify the tone in a direction that was not intended, we have decided not to continue with this campaign. It was clear that some of the comments made in the blogosphere were at odds with our principles as a responsible multi-national hospitality company that values and celebrates cultural differences and understanding.”
One final comment: I truly, honestly do not like eating chicken’s feet. Does that make me racist? Does it mean I deserve to be deported from Hong Kong?