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UK Festival Fined £70,000 ($109,419.80) for Most Inappropriate Mom Joke Ever

Why did Manchester’s Parklife text ticket holders pretending to be their moms?
December 5, 2014, 1:09pm

Sometimes, companies will use truly ridiculous tactics to engage with people in the name of FUN. For example, at least once per week I receive a text message from my cell phone provider asking if I want to “hang out” with Michael Bublé or Ed Sheeran or some other enormous artist I have no interest in paying $100 to stand half a mile away from. My gut reaction to those messages is to swipe left faster than I would on anybody with a monochrome Tinder pic, but I can concede that—from a business perspective—it is a quick, easy, and cheap way of getting in touch with people in a world where most adverts get lost in a sea of hashtags.

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Shoddy taste in music aside, at least O2 have the foresight to make it immediately obvious that their promotional messages are from them. The company behind Manchester’s Parklife Festival, however, didn’t quite get that far. In what is arguably the worst marketing tactic of all time, they have just been fined £70,000 (which is $109,419.80) for deciding to text festival-goers over the summer from a number that would appear on their mobiles as “Mum” (which is how British people say "mom").

What’s going on here is a classic slice of Michael McIntyre style comedy—a play on the “overbearing fun-sponge” mom trope. "Ha ha! My mother wants to make me breakfast because she cares about me! Whatever, mom!" etc, which is a weird joke to make anyway considering the main clientele for Parklife (and other festivals) is a combination of rowdy students and fully grown adults, who don’t know where else to take their drugs now that The Hacienda is a block of condos. But I can kinda see why they went for it. Mom jokes are accessible and stupid and, for those reasons, remain the primary source of comedy for anybody born before 1994. But the problem in this context (apart from the spectacular grammatical error of “your”), is that not everybody is fortunate enough to have a mum. And you can assume that, when you’re sending out a blanket text message to 140,000 people, at least a handful of them will be upset by it.

The company received a total of 76 complaints. Including one from 19-year-old Ros Prior, who told a BBC reporter that her mom died three years earlier.

This is the kind of obvious detail that most people would curse themselves for overlooking and fall over themselves trying to apologize for. But weirdly, the initial reaction from company head Sacha Lord-Marchionne was, “So this is what it feels like to be a jar of Marmite #LoveItOrHateIt,” a joke so bad not even Dapper Laughs would smile at it.

The company has officially apologized now, but The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) have fined Parklife Manchester Ltd for breaching regulations on the grounds that the identity of the person behind the text sent to customers was "disguised or concealed". Presumably that’s because “failed to read the first chapter of Marketing For Dummies” is not an official term in legal doctrine.

Follow Emma on Twitter: @emmaggarland

This post originally appeared on Noisey UK.