The naughty list- PR edition

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! A time for family and friends, for making new memories and reminiscing about old ones.

But there are some among us who, I’m sure, would just as soon forget some of their activity from 2018 – actions that may have landed them on Santa’s “naughty list”.  While we are certainly not claiming to have any real authority over who receives coal this holiday season, we present, for your consideration, our picks for the naughtiest PR campaigns of the year (and we’ve even checked it twice).

The PR Naughty List

Roseanne Barr

Obviously, at the top of our list is Roseanne Barr. In today’s digital age, social media tends to be the Achilles heel of many high-profile personalities—in many cases, Tweets nearly a decade old have resurfaced to haunt otherwise well-respected celebrities (as they say, the internet is forever). Shortly after the reboot of her ABC sitcom back in May, Barr went on a racially-charged Twitter rant targeting Obama and other members of the White House, which had career-ending consequences. ABC quickly cancelled her show, instead creating a spin-off without her involvement. On the bright side, this whole debacle earned Sanofi US (the creators of Ambien) a coveted spot on the “Nice” list, when they clapped-back at Barr in a tweet after she claimed the outburst was a result of taking the drug. My thoughts go out to her poor publicist!




With many regular H&M shoppers at KLC, we found this one to be especially cringe-worthy. Back in January, the retailer faced serious backlash after images from their online store surfaced, showing a black child wearing a hoodie emblazoned with the phrase “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle.” This went viral for all the wrong reasons, with celebrities such as The Weekend, Diddy, LeBron James and T.I. voicing outrage and calling for boycotts of the brand. Ouch. Of course, the brand issued an apology (not quickly enough, if you ask us), pulled the sweater and the ads, and hired a diversity manager in the wake of the scandal. Regardless, their reputation took a definite impact.


An office survey on this one revealed that the jury was out on whether Maroon5 deserved to make the naughty list this year. By way of a recap, in September, it was announced that the group would be headlining the Superbowl LIII half-time performance. It then surfaced that the organization had been having a difficult time securing a performance, after allegedly being turned down by Rihanna, P!nk and Cardi B in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick. Petitions began circulating online calling for Maroon5 to back out of the show and word is that they continue to struggle to find anyone to perform features during their set. By the looks of things, the group was ill-advised, but research is a critical step in any successful PR campaign and as a result, they have made the naughty list.

IHOP… slash IHOb??

This one might go down in history. The brand caused mass confusion and outrage this year when they announced they would be changing their name from International House of Pancakes (IHOP) to International House of Burgers (IHOb) to better reflect the chain’s options for lunch and dinner, not just breakfast. Celebrities and other food chains took the opportunity to poke fun at the brand on social media making for some hilarious exchanges at IHOP’s expense and ultimately stealing quite a bit of its thunder. Eventually, the brand admitted it was all a publicity stunt, but we can’t help wonder if it went the way they were hoping. They certainly generated some buzz around the brand and got people talking about IHOP—but is all publicity good publicity? Our vote is, no.

American Airlines

Technically, this was 2017, but it’s too naughty to leave off the list. This time last year American Airlines came very close to ruining Christmas for thousands of travellers, when a scheduling glitch allowed too many pilots to take vacation, thus leaving over 15,000 scheduled flights without anyone to operate them over the holiday season. Travellers were understandably concerned over the mistake and to rectify the situation the airline had to offer overtime pay and tap into reserves to cover the shifts. Ultimately, they were able to correct the situation, but their stock took a hit.

There you have it. A selection of our “naughtiest” for the year. What do you think? Is there a company we missed? Let us know.

Before we sign off for the holidays, we would like to wish all our clients, partners and friends the most joyous season imaginable. We hope your 2018 has been happy and prosperous…and may your 2019 be even more so! We hope we can be a part of it.

Best wishes from the KLC team.