Red bathing suit spams Instagram and backfires completely

Social Cues: A company tries getting free advertising by giving away a red bathing suit. Here's how it blew up in their face.

Alfred Ng Senior Reporter / CNET News
Alfred Ng was a senior reporter for CNET News. He was raised in Brooklyn and previously worked on the New York Daily News's social media and breaking news teams.
Alfred Ng
2 min read
Instagram, screenshot by Alfred Ng/CNET

People on Instagram are seeing red.

More than 3,000 people have reposted an image of a woman wearing a red bathing suit next to a swimming pool, and it's all thanks to Sunny Co. Clothing's Instagram spam campaign. The apparel company on Wednesday had shared that photo, offering the bathing suit for free to everyone who posts the picture and tags their Instagram account.

You'd think the internet would have learned by now that if something is free, you're the product. To get that kind of engagement and social interaction as a company, an average sponsored Instagram post would cost about $300, according to AdWeek.

But why shell out that much money when you can promise to give away products for viral advertising? At $65 for the bathing suit, Sunny Co. saves better than $200 for each post from people hoping to get free stuff on Instagram.

It's the equivalent of Wendy's promising to give away a year's worth of nuggets -- the equivalent of about $395 -- for 18 million retweets. Kids desperate for freebies are a marketing scheme on social media. That's not creepy at all, right? (To be fair, CNET also does promote giveaways, but I'm optimistic that we don't drag it to this annoying scale.)

Sunny Co.'s giveaway turned into an internet dumpster fire, what with a few thousand people demanding their free bathing suit. It's completely sold out on their website, and the company can't even handle the demand. Wow, it's almost as if social media has the potential to make posts go viral. Who could have seen this coming?

The swimwear maker did not respond to requests for comment. But it did post a few adjustments to its giveaway's rules and conditions, like, oh, I don't know, not actually fulfilling the giveaway.

"Due to the viral volume of participants, we reserve the right to cap the promotion if deemed necessary," Sunny Co. wrote in a follow-up Instagram post. It also said there could be delays because of the "overwhelming volume of orders."

It then gave out the promotion code on that post, making everyone who reposted the photo do it for absolutely no reason other than to be surrogate billboards. As it watched its social media campaign backfire, Sunny Co. turned off the comments on its post.

But in the Instagram posts where the comments are still available, irate users are calling the company a sham and threatening to sue. Hell hath no fury like social media scorned.

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