April 21, 2024

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Unintended Perceptions and PR Crises

pr crisises 2022

Audi recently decided to release an ad that many people thought was insensitive.  Many businesses can learn a lot of lessons from this mistake. The ad in question featured a young girl in a dress, snacking a banana while leaning on one of the brand’s red sports cars.

Shortly after the ad was released, people started criticizing the carmaker for the intentions behind it. Some members of the public thought it was inappropriate to have an ad with a small child dressed up as an adult while leaning against a car and eating a banana.

While it’s possible that no one on Audi’s advertising team had any ill intentions while creating and distributing the ad, it was still inappropriate in the eyes of many. It’s not all about the image that a company is trying to present to the public, but about the perception of that image in the eyes of the audience.

These days, it’s easier than ever for those perceptions to generate a lot of negative attention, which can seriously harm a brand’s reputation.


After the backlash, Audi released an apologetic statement to the public, in a series of tweets. The brand explained the reasoning behind the ad itself. According to the carmaker, the brand was trying to show that the vehicle had over thirty driver assistance systems, as well as an emergency brake system.

That’s the reason why the brand decided to showcase the car with different family members in front of it for its ad campaign.

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While Audi was hoping that the message would be clear and that the public would understand how beneficial this technology can be in society, that wasn’t the case.

The idea behind the ad finally became clear to the public, but the response that the brand received from its consumers was surprising. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, a brand’s intentions won’t matter if consumers perceive a piece of their messaging to be negative.

They’re going to talk about it and publicly criticize any missteps, which can damage a company’s reputation.

Learning Opportunity

This situation is a great example of why companies should consider every perspective that the public could have towards a new ad, slogan, or spokesperson. Although it might not be a fun exercise to think about all the different negative reactions that people might have to certain actions from a business, when a brand’s reputation is in question, there’s no skipping over that essential step.

What To Do

A brand’s reputation is a long-term investment for a business. The reputation of a brand has to be maintained thoroughly, and there are plenty of tools available to companies to navigate any sort of potentially negative situation.

There are tools for social listening, as well as for gathering feedback from consumers, and even for utilizing focus groups to find out precisely how new statements or activities might be perceived by the public.

With the help of these tools, not only can companies get ahead of any negative conversations about them in public, but they can also anticipate potential responses to various changes from the audience.

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Ronn Torossian is the CEO and founder of NY based PR firm 5W Public Relations. Torossian is also the founder of the Ronn Torossian Foundation, and a life long New Yorker.