Part One: The Worst

Twitter can be a great way to raise consumer awareness about a product, but LiveLens, an Israeli company that launched a social livestreaming app on May 1st, seems to have gotten it all wrong.

LiveLens’ use of Thamsanqua Jantjie as the face of its new ad campaign certainty got the attention of the Twitter community, but not in the way that the company had hoped.

In case you don’t remember Thamsanqua Jantjie, he was the sign language interpreter who made news headlines around the world by faking his way through a nonsensical “translation” of speeches by President Obama and Nelson Mandela’s grandchildren at Mandela’s memorial service back in December 2013.

LiveLens’ ad features Jantjie dancing around, admitting he doesn’t know sign language, and bragging about becoming a famous celebrity and making money from the ad campaign. Strike one.

A movement on the social media network involving users posting pictures of their hands with the phrase “stop #fakeinterpreter” has become a popular way to denounce the distasteful and offensive ad. Upset Tweeters claim that the portrayal of Jantjie mocks the use of sign language, a means of communicating that is indispensable to the hearing-impaired community.

A LiveLens spokesperson told Adweek that the company had hired a local professional to find Jantjie and bring him from the South African mental institution where he was residing under the false pretense of a “family wedding.” Lying to get access to a schizophrenic inpatient? Strike two.

LiveLens’ CEO Max Bluvband tried to defend the campaign by asserting that giving money to a mentally ill patient was a good thing. I’m sorry, but there is no justification for exploiting the mentally ill. Strike three–you’re out.

With all of the bad online publicity surrounding the campaign, it’s not terribly surprising that LiveLens’ rep mentioned to Adweek that the company has no future plans to work with Jantjie.

 

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