A collaborative marketing campaign between Delta and Coca-Cola has sparked tense emotions after they tried to encourage passengers on the airline passengers to flirt with each other.
The marketing involved new Diet Coke-branded napkins on some Delta flights that asked passengers to write their name and phone number down and hand it to their “plane crush.”
The napkins read on the other side,
“because you’re on a plane fill of interesting people and hey… you never know.”
It was super creepy.
— Mike J (@MJJoe) February 1, 2019
Just when I thought traveling couldn’t get any creepier- thanks, Coke!🙄
— Candice Ann Moraga (@DvaliciousCandi) February 8, 2019
@Delta all those involved in the design and approval obviously never had to sit next to a creep during a full 12 hour flight and quietly ask a coworker to pretend to be their husband in order to get the creep to back off. Crowded space you cannot escape but sure encourage this
— MidWstrn (@WstrnMid) February 7, 2019
Dating apps assume availability/interest—click away (with class). On a flight, expect to find many business travelers with families at home. Ask before you hand someone a love napkin. It’s not a singles’ cruise.
— Sophia Wilson (@strongheroine) February 7, 2019
That was my first thought too. And you know how terrible airlines are at handling cases of sexual harassment between passengers?
— Radical Goats (@RadicalGoats) February 7, 2019
Many pointed out that it can already be uncomfortable having to sit next to someone for hours after rejecting their advances, and this would only encourage it.
Others connected the napkins to the airline industry’s growing issues with sexism and harassment on flights.
In 2017, a survey of flight attendants found the overwhelming majority had experienced sexual harassment themselves. 20% reported they had to deal with passenger-on-passenger assault while working a flight.
With 68% of flight attendants already saying they don’t feel their employers are effectively addressing these issues, a flirting focused ad was probably not the best idea.
After people started complaining, the companies pulled the ad campaign from the flights to prevent offense.
Of course, when anyone gets offended in this day and age, no matter the reason, people will rise up to be offended at the offense.
I've seen people writing numbers on plane tickets. This is a cute idea. I like old school. It didn't say you HAD to write your number down and if you don't want the number, they collect trash on planes.
— Shellie (@shellie_83_t) February 7, 2019
I know someone who recently met someone on a plane and they are now dating. This would have been helpful…
— I Am A Scout (@ilookforplaces) February 6, 2019
The ones not receiving any phone numbers…
— Michele Crimmin (@mamashell97) February 7, 2019
It’s even gender neutral. It’s not hurting anyone. It not asking people to harass anyone. It’s simple, if you receive a name and number that you don’t want just say thanks and throw it away later. Pretty simple!
— Jeremy Kamel (@jkchewy) February 7, 2019
There were many calls on Twitter to reinstate the napkin campaign calling them “fun” and “cute.” One even pointed out that she ended up in a relationship in the past from flirting on an airline.
@Delta @CocaCola I friggin LOVE these napkins. How anybody can find this genuinely creepy is beyond me. I once met a guy on a plane and we ended up in a 6 month relationship…and it all started with a smile and a…number…on an airplane napkin #Delta #CocaCola pic.twitter.com/3Wg7YMjelp
— Juliet Jones makes stuff up for a living (@IreallyamJuliet) February 7, 2019
Other people felt it encouraged face to face communication in a world of smartphones.
Thanks @CocaCola and @Delta, for encouraging people to TALK to one another, make new friends, or do anything besides stare mindlessly at phones. But don't you know it's practically illegal to flirt these days? Sad world, but nice try & not #creepy https://t.co/5xvmHXSo80
— Ashley Bergin (@punkmarkgirl) February 6, 2019
Distinct from the offended and the offended-to-be-offended crowds are those who joke.
This has to be parody, right?
— Adam Fowler (@adamfowler23) February 7, 2019
Everyone knows you're single buddy lol
— wes burt (@newyear420) February 7, 2019
After it was all over, Delta gathered up all the napkins and sold the numbers to telemarketers.
— Squirrel (@Squirrel3218) February 7, 2019
Both companies have released apology statements, with Delta saying,
“We rotate Coke products regularly as part of our brand partnership, but missed the mark with this one. We are sorry for that and began removing the napkins from our aircraft in January.”
Coke promised they were replacing the napkins and said in a quote to The Washington Post,
“We sincerely apologize to anyone we may have offended.”
Other companies have recently had to perform damage control after putting out ill-conceived ad campaigns. T-Mobile’s recent sexist Super Bowl ad featuring nagging women caused outrage on the internet.
Heineken had to pull a racist ad depicting the phrase “Sometimes lighter is better” as their beer slid past dark-skinned people and stopped at a light skinned woman.