The company behind music festival Parklife has been fined £70,000 after showing how not to pull an SMS-based PR stunt.
Some 76 people complained about the ill-conceived campaign after receiving texts that appeared to be from their mum. In fact, the messages were actually prompts to book tickets for one of Parklife’s after parties. The messages ended up being sent to tens of thousands of people.
Ros Prior, who lost her mother three years previous to multiple sclerosis, was one of the 76 people that complained about the message.
“My phone went off and I clicked to read it,” she explained. “It said, ‘New message from mum’ and my heart stopped. Even though it was only two seconds of sheer panic, it was horrible because I just saw mum. You just think, ‘Oh my God, is she still alive?’ I started crying. And then I read the text and realised it was Parklife.”
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said that another festival-goer that had contacted them still had his recently-deceased mother’s contact information in his phone. He became extremely distressed when he saw the message. Some receivers of the SMS even decided to sell their tickets and not attend the festival, reports bbc.co.uk.
Moreover, Parklife failed to take the complaints seriously and instead took to Twitter, commenting: “So this is what it feels like to be a jar of Marmite #LoveItOrHateIt.”
The organisers have since apologised and explained that the text was supposed to be a “fun way of engaging with festival-goers.” They acknowledged that, with hindsight, the message wasn’t suitable for everyone.
Parklife Manchester Ltd was fined by the ICO on the basis that it had concealed the identity of the person behind the promotional text message, reports independent.co.uk.