Miracle Mattress, 9/11, and Newsjacking Gone Horribly Wrong

In 2004, Mount St. Helens began belching smoke.

Photo by fotos 593

Photo by fotos 593


I was a radio salesperson at the time. One of my biggest clients was Beaverton Mitsubishi, owned by a guy named Joe Khorasani.

Joe had a temper that could fairly be described as “volcanic”. Fortunately, Joe also had a good sense of humor.

I decided to engage in a little newsjacking — defined by Hubspot as “the practice of capitalizing on the popularity of a news story to amplify your sales and marketing success.

I quickly wrote a script featuring Mount Khorasani, an active volcano, and created an event called “The Eruption of Savings.” Joe liked it.

We got him into the studio to record his lines, and had the commercial on the radio while the smoke was still in the air. You can listen to it below — voices are Joe and the legendary Matt Jones of iHeart Media.

Direct link to the file: https://youtu.be/vyPEIybiYbY

The store got some extra attention, and the “Eruption of Savings” sale was a success.

I thought about Mount Khorasani the other day when I read about a disastrous attempt at newsjacking by a mattress store in San Antonio, Texas.

As a write this, the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks is approaching. Someone at Miracle Mattress thought it would be a good idea to have a few laughs.

The result was the “Twin Tower Sale”, where they offered any sized mattress for a twin mattress price.

They recorded a video. Which went viral on the Internet. And not it a good way.


VIDEO: Mattress company releases ad for 9/11 sale mimicking twin towers falling

SAN ANTONIO – A Texas mattress company released an ad to promote a special 9/11 sale, but it quickly took an offensive turn when it imitated the World Trade Center Twin Towers falling. Miracle Mattress posted the ad on Facebook promoting its “Twin Towers Sale” for Sept.


As they began to realize what they’d stepped in, the local folks tweeted out a half-hearted apology. A day later Mike Bonanno, the store owner, posted a much stronger apology in which he hinted that heads were going to roll in San Antonio.

Although sales data is not available, I’m guessing that they didn’t sell many mattresses.

UPDATE: On Friday, September 9, the store announced that it would be closing indefinitely.

David Meerman Scott, author of Newsjacking: How to Inject your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coveragehad this to say a few years ago:

Newsjacking is a powerful tool, but you risk unleashing the power in a negative manner that can seriously harm your brand if you exploit something in poor taste like a major storm. Kenneth Cole learned this lesson the hard way when he attempted to newsjack the revolution in Egypt.

The folks at Miracle Mattress fell into one of the most dangerous traps of the form — baldly attempting to exploit a national tragedy for financial gain. They got lots of media attention, but not the kind they wanted.

By contrast “Eruption of Savings” is remembered fondly because nobody died on Mount St. Helens in 2004.

Using current events in your advertising can be a very effective strategy… if you’re careful. Before you post, take a deep breath and think through the implications.




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