When you want to run a contest to promote a hot product, you should probably do a gut check to make sure it's not offensive in some way. That's the lesson OnePlus is learning today after having launched what might be the dudebro-iest contest of the 21st century.
The folks at OnePlus thought it'd be a good idea to run a "Ladies First" contest encouraging their female fans to (no joke) share pictures of themselves with the OnePlus Logo emblazoned on either a piece of paper they're holding or that's drawn/painted on their "hand/face/wherever." But, hey, don't worry, despite the very obvious implications of "wherever," they carefully reminded would-be contest entrants to avoid scandalous portraits by reminding women that nudity was a no-no.
Submissions would be judged by the OnePlus staff members, and the 50 most well-liked (read: hottest) women would receive an invitation to spend $300-$350 on the company's OnePlus One smartphone (OnePlus sends out invites to purchase the device to help mitigate a low supply), and a company T-shirt.
If 500 women entered the contest, one lucky winner would also get a free 64GB OnePlus One phone. A hundred additional invites would be given out at random to the women who participated, a likely effort to ward off those who might criticize the company's questionable judging criteria.
As you'd probably expect, while there was a smattering of seemingly legitimate posts from real women in the forum, there were equally as many if not more very obvious photoshops of scantily clad women (and men, for that matter) with the OnePlus logo in strategic places. There was also a significant amount of backlash from the contest, with both OnePlus forum members and several news organizations calling it inappropriate, sexist, and ill-advised. Even Cyanogen, which makes the CyanogenMod OS that the OnePlus One runs on, took to Twitter to express outrage at the contest.
We value all of our users and do not support any contest that objectifies people
-- Cyanogen Inc. (@CyanogenInc) August 12, 2014
After letting the contest continue for a few hours, it looks like OnePlus finally made the right decision to take the forum offline. In a blog post on its contest page, the company acknowledged the contest was in poor taste, and called on the community for ideas on how to better get women involved in tech.
Not objectifying them would be a good start. Hopefully they'll build that basic concept into future promotional content.
Update, 7:05 p.m.: In an email to CNET, OnePlus provided the following statement.
OnePlus is thrilled to have a small but growing number of women active in our online community. We want to encourage even more women to get involved with and excited about the amazing things happening in tech right now. The 'Ladies First' contest was a very misguided effort by a few isolated employees to do just that, however there is no question the post not only failed to better include our female community but actually perpetuated a stereotype that OnePlus in no way supports or condones. We deeply regret any offense caused by this contest.