The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) released an advertising campaign for its newly carpet-free metro trains. This campaign featured tweets from real-time riders marveling over the new resilient flooring. The only problem is, the tweets appeared to be sent at hours when the metro was not running.
Twitter user Mookiesayswhat tweeted a photo of a WMATA advertisement asking, “What train is running at 4am?” The advertisement had three tweets embedded in it. One was from user HeidiSamIAm who tweeted, “There's new flooring on my train. They ripped up the orange carpet. WHERE AM I????” This tweet was listed as being posted at 4:15 am, well outside of the 5am – Midnight weekday schedule.
Another tweet from user Denuine read, “New non-carpeted floor in this #WashingtonMetro train makes me want to tap dance!” This tweet was listed as being posted at 3:31 am.
An investigation into the sources of the tweets revealed that they were posted during metro business hours, three hours later than the advertisement listed. This suggested the advertising or PR campaign was put together by a West Coast firm. Users on twitter expressed concern over the confusing appearance of these tweets as well as the use of a West Coast firm when Washington, DC contains many PR and advertising firms.
Although WMATA was tweeted about this directly, they declined to join the conversation.
This advertisement is one in a series of campaigns and messaging that have caused riders to refer to WMATA as “out of touch”. A recent ad campaign was criticized as sexist when it featured a woman asking, “Can’t we just talk about shoes?” Another ad intended to curb sexual harassment appeared to contain a double entendre. It stated, “Rub against me and I’ll expose you.”
Metro’s campaigns have been attempting to rebuild the image of WMATA under Dan Stessel, who joined in May 2011 as the chief spokesperson.