Companies face minefield in race to capitalize on Serial

Remember that post I wrote this morning that with the Serial podcast we have to constantly recalibrate ourselves to remember that a real person died and other lives have been ruined, despite our entertainment with the subject?

Best Buy didn’t read it.

The Tweet references the role Best Buy plays in the murder. That is, it’s where Hae Min Lee — a real person — was killed, according to the official account of her death, and where the person serving time — Adnan Syed — allegedly used a payphone to call the person who blew the whistle on him to help dispose of her body.

In recent episodes, it’s been pretty well proven that there was no payphone at the Best Buy store any more than there was a lot deep thinking going on at the Best Buy social networking cubicle.

To its credit, Best Buy owned the gaffe.

At Slate, Alison Griswold gives Best Buy a pass:

Yes, it’s true that Serial is a journalistic enterprise about a real, serious event. It’s also true that, on some level, it feels wrong for a brand to exploit that. But at this point in the series, Serial is much more than a journalism project. It is a cultural phenomenon. Some 5 million people have downloaded and streamed its episodes. Thousands are parsing the details of its case on Reddit. People aren’t just listening to Serial because it’s important and weighty and informative—they’re listening to Serial because it’s entertaining. I think we all agree that pop culture and entertainment are fair game for brands to market on. If we accept that Serial has crossed into that territory, it seems hypocritical to treat it as strictly off-limits.

  • joetron2030

    So glad you posted about this! I couldn’t find the original tweet and only saw the apology after the fact. I haven’t been listening to Serial so I didn’t know what the tie to BB was.

  • FWIW: Jay did it.

    • Kassie

      I like Stephanie for it, with Jay as an accomplice. Or Maybe Jay, with Stephanie as an accomplice. Somehow, she is involved.

  • ae_umn

    Nation eagerly awaits a new podcast episode every Thursday that details the grisly murder of a teenage girl, becomes enraged when someone in a corporation’s social media department expresses similar interest.

    Honestly, most of the anger was melodramatic. These people have no qualms talking about the series as if it’s fiction or that it’s some whodunnit game (I’m certainly guilty of this).

    • Aren’t all murders ‘grisly’?

      • Kassie

        Not when they are actually assisted suicide. (Not that this is case the case here, but some murders are less grisly than others.)

        • I always find it fascinating when people feel the need to put adjectives in front of “murder”. Apparently to give it more drama. TV is famous for the “brutal murder,” “brutal rape”: etc.

          It says all we need to know about our culture that we feel we need to do that to elevate its meaning. Because just being killed or raped isn’t at all brutal by the very definition, I guess.

      • ae_umn

        Presumably so. But even removing the adjective doesn’t really change the point. We’re happy to gab about Serial lightheartedly with friends, but when Best Buy does it, “Whoa! You can’t do that! That’s a murder you’re talking about!”