PR Disaster As Viral Opportunity?

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Did April Fools’ come a week early this year? Something *very* odd is going on over at “henderson bas”:http://www.theniceagency.com/ this weekend.
Their home page has been replaced by this:
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The page title has been changed from “henderson bas – the nice agency” to “henderson bas – the cleanest agency in Canada” (the company’s url is theniceagency.com).
What’s going on here?


All of this seems to spring from “Adrants'”:http://www.adrants.com publication of a purported “all hands” e-mail from the agency’s President, Dawna Henderson (“One Degree Profile”:http://www.onedegree.ca/2005/07/14/five-questions-for-dawna-henderson-president-henderson-bas). Adrants Friday afternoon post called “The Nice Agency Isn’t So Nice”:http://www.adrants.com/2006/03/the-nice-agency-isnt-so-nice.php goes for the jugular, reprinting the full e-mail and then standing back as the comments flood in.
I’m not going to republish the supposed e-mail here but you may want to “go read it”:http://www.adrants.com/2006/03/the-nice-agency-isnt-so-nice.php to see what all the fuss is about. In particular, look at the vitriol flowing in the comments to the post.
I can’t imagine that this e-mail was planted at Adrants as a hoax _by_ henderson bas – it just makes them look _too_ bad. Part of me thought the “leaked e-mail” and the “humorous corporate response” looked a bit too much like a PR stunt but if that is the case it has gone _horribly wrong_ in my mind. I can’t believe there could be a reason to inflict something like this on your company intentionally.
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So if we assume their home page is an attempt at damage control by making light of what’s going on at Adrants I’m not sure it is successful. My guess is lots of people (certainly most clients and potential clients of henderson bas) wouldn’t have caught wind of this. Now they’ve nicely drawn attention to the whole mess. Heck I’m writing about it and now a few thousand more people know that not everyone thinks Henderson Bas is the Nice Agency!
Finally, someone has done a nice job of taking this to the next level by starting “a CafePress Shop”:http://www.cafepress.com/theniceagency selling commemorative shirts, hats, aprons, and wall clocks (as pictured here).

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