Business | Media and Marketing

Online backlash after sexist Facebook post by Subaru Emirates following accident deaths

The company later posted an apology on its official Facebook page on Sunday afternoon, 26 hours after the original post appeared.

  • By Alexander Cornwell, Staff Reporter
  • Published: 17:15 August 4, 2013
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit:
  • Subaru's controversial Facebook status
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Dubai: Abu Dhabi-based Subaru Emirates has received a backlash of online criticism after blaming a fatal car accident on a driver’s gender and nationality.

Companies are failing to understand the importance of social media as part of their branding strategy, UAE social media experts have warned, with many companies treating social media as a secondary marketing tool.

The warning follows a social media blunder by Al Adiyat Automobiles-owned Subaru Emirates in Abu Dhabi. The Subaru Emirates official Facebook page posted a status blaming a driver’s gender and nationality for an accident on Shaikh Zayed Road that clamed four lives.

The status posted by an outsourced contractor handling Subaru Emirates media was later deleted after Facebook users expressed their outrage.

“I cannot respect a company who turns a tragic accident into a moment to take an irrelevant, sexist remark. Serious unprofessional,” Facebook user Khalisah Khalousy Eves posted.

Derryl D Souza wrote: “Gender bias.. HUGE PR mistake Subaru (sic),” in response to the status.

“What kind of message are you trying to send here? I wasn’t aware that gender nor national can be the main cause to accidents!!! I honestly thought mentalities like this have extinct. Very poor social media and PR. Shame on you (sic),” posted Facebook user Shayma Zaq.

Without approval

An employee at Subaru Emirates Al Reem Towers Subaru Showroom in Abu Dhabi said the media contractor is a friend of a senior official. The employee, who did not give her name, said the status was posted without approval from the company.

“At this stage Subaru Emirates will look to discontinue their relationship with the individual,” the employee said.

Gulf News was unable to verify the employee's statement. Subaru Emirates did not respond to additional requests for information.

The company later posted an apology on its official Facebook page on Sunday afternoon, 26 hours after the original post appeared.

Alex Malouf, a Dubai-based blogger and social media commentator, said the problem is that companies often place social media in the hands of people who don’t understand how to use it.

“Whoever is controlling social media needs to know what to say and what not to say online. You are not just representing yourself but you’re representing a brand. The person handling social media needs to know how the brand should be represented and understand the brand's procedures,” he said.

Guidelines

Too often executives are not briefed on guidelines and best practices of using social media, Malouf said. “But these things just shouldn’t happen.”

Tahani Karrar-Lewsley, Founder & CEO of Dubai-based specialist social media marketing company Menar Media, said it is vital that companies take social media seriously.

“Social media has become the most important part of a companies marketing strategy.”

“We have seen companies fail in the UK for use of bad social media,” she added.

Social media blunders can be very harmful for the brand, Karrar-Lewsley said, because of how quickly information can be accessed.

“Companies spend millions of dollars developing their brand and an incident like this can undo all the hard work,” Karrar-Lewsley said.

Companies are able to bounce back and repair their image, Karrar-Lewsley said, by coming out immediately and saying that the incident doesn’t represent company’s views.

“They used to, say, wait 24-hours in crisis management but now with Twitter it's 24-seconds.”

Time is an issue.

“The longer you leave it the worse it gets.”

Elias, Boutsikaris, Digital Media Director at Dubai-based management consultancy Andarakis, said incidents like this can be very damaging for a brand in a relatively small market like the UAE.

“It stays in the memory for a really long time and in this case the brand will take a hit.”

Malouf said companies are always able to come back from these incidents because consumers are forgiving.

“Subaru is well known and has a lot positives going for them but it takes just a couple of minutes for incidents like this to get attention.”

Karrar-Lewsley said she hopes companies in the region will learn from the Subaru Emirates Facebook incident, but ultimately she is afraid companies are not taking social media seriously enough to avoid a repeat.

“They have their heads in the sand.”

“This will happen again.”

Comments (46)

  1. Added 16:52 August 5, 2013

    Salman and all the males in denial: Get over your egos! The sexist remark is the issue!

    Mel, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 16:46 August 5, 2013

    I agree that what Subaru posted was totally sexist. That is the main issue here. You guys ranting here and targetting female drivers should get over your male egos.

    Alex, Duba, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 16:00 August 5, 2013

    to all the ladies & gents, who disagree with Subaru, let me tell you two things.. The brand Subaru is a legend in itself, a very highly respectable brand in the motorworld. it does not need the approval of a few touchy touchy individuals to sustain itself......Subaru only highlighted this incident as a caution to all the drivers out there from a safety perspective.. Gender and nationality is not the focus.....so stop whining and instead sympathize with the family that has lost 4 precious lives all due to the fault of a thoughtless individual....

    DENNIS ARIMPUR, ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 15:36 August 5, 2013

    May the lost souls rest in peace! It's clearly mistake of the driver who hit from the back. What if the tyre has bursted only that very moment? We should be vigilant while driving and things, hurdles coming ahead. May Allah keep us safe! Amen!

    Umer Yousaf, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 15:24 August 5, 2013

    Accident are caused due to reckless driving...women and men make equal number of mistakes on the road..being a regular driver myself..as a WOMAN...i see men who drive soo recklessly thinking they are superior in driving and they have soo much analytical sense. More often than not it is always men who are involved in major accidents..not claiming that women are not...but the percentage is less as women are more careful drivers!!

    Elza, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 15:14 August 5, 2013

    I have been driving for over 18 years on dubai roads, i have seen this type of accidents waiting to happen on emirates road many a times, Its women and certain nationalities,generally they have no sense of driving on such roads, their car must have done only 10000 km in a year and when they drive on the highway they have no idea how to behave on respond in such emergency situations. I live across the emirates road, Mirdiff area and i drive back and forth on a daily basis from Ajman to Mirdiff and to Jebel Ali depending on my work i have a whole book to write on why these accidents happen?? Arrogance, inexperience, ego, ability to respond to breakdowns there are various factors. i wish i can put a video camera on my camera and ill have a lot of live stories to tell.

    MH, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 14:32 August 5, 2013

    Women in general shouldnt drive, and I hope the rule in KSA still be valid.

    Omar, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  8. Added 14:24 August 5, 2013

    first of all it's a tragic incident so let's pray for the well being of the injured and prayers for departed. Been driving for more than 20 years and in UAE since 2001 and my observation is that women on the whole have lot less sense of driving then men in with similar experience. They will drive either too slow in fast lanes with no care of who they are blocking behind them or to change to slower lanes. Another most irritating attribute most women possess during driving is not to give way and expect to be given way everytime they try to change lane. I can say in my personal experience 8 out of 10 women even with enough gap will suddenly rush forward or honk if you try to enter in front of them. They should learn to give way and not behave as if they own the road.

    sak, dubai, United Arab Emirates

  9. Added 14:11 August 5, 2013

    If women are are naturally worse drivers than men, why do insurance companies in so many countries charge them less for insurance? It is well known that women are involved in much fewer accidents than men. If you disagree with this post, show me some evidence, rather than your uninformed opinion.

    Shay, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  10. Added 14:01 August 5, 2013

    In reality, bad driving has nothing to do with the persons gender nor nationality. The truth is every single day I am on the road and I encounter loads of very bad drivers. Drivers that want to enter main roads and take the extreme left lane tend to just cut straight across instead of entering the right lane then signal to change lanes gradually to the extreme left. This is just one example of really bad drivers that can easily cause an accident by doing such move. Another example is drivers that want to avoid staying the respective lanes when they intend to go straight ahead, they tend to take the extreme right lane, which is usually an ONLY RIGHT turn lane, just to overcome the cue of cars on the other lanes and then block that right lane only to take left lane again. The truth is the Police should have more presence during rush hours to show drivers that they are keeping an eye on violators and action will be taken against them. Cameras and radars are not scaring those drivers that always tend to want to break the rules and drive their own ways.

    Tkhoury, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

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