How Arby's Dealt With Their Greatest Twitter Troll By Being Awesome; Also Sandwiches And Puppies

from the thumbs-up dept

There are many ways to handle being trolled on Twitter if you're a company or a famous person. You can track down the trolls, investing hundreds of hours all for a payoff that amounts to showing up at their house physically and making them uncomfortable. You can figure out who the trolls are and call their parents, because that's apparently a thing that actually happened. Or you can be James Woods, completely the worst, and whip out the lawsuits to unmask the troll and then gloat gleefully like a three year old that stole his favorite popsicle when the guy happens to die.

Now, all of those methods for dealing with internet trolls range from mildly annoying to evil (James Woods), but they are obviously not the only options. You could go the Arby's route and simply be awesome and human and have fun with the whole thing. The fast food chain recently decided to have a little fun with its most famous Twitter troll: Nihilist Arby's. Now, if you're not familiar with Nihilist Arby's, it's a Twitter account with 300k followers and daily affirmations that include such advice as:


The entire feed is massively entertaining, but the man behind the account also released the following manifesto when news and advertising groups were trying to figure out who the hell was behind all of this.


Once that video went viral, the countdown clock to unmasking @nihilist_arbys had begun. Arby's, meanwhile, in the midst of being praised for its own hip social media activity in engaging with Jon Stewart when he retired and being cool with Pharrell Williams wearing a hat that was an accidental nod to its own logo, certainly noticed the account. The chain kept tabs on it without ever interacting with it directly or threatening any action against it, when suddenly Nihilist Arby's was unmasked as Brendan Kelly, who worked both in advertising and performed in punk rock bands.

Arby's CEO Paul Brown and his marketing team read the piece.

"We had discussions around what do we do with that? And we said, 'Well, one, even if we wanted to do something, we couldn't,'" Brown told Business Insider. "But we also had a little fun with him, too."

What did that fun amount to? Well, the company flew an executive to Chicago. That executive went to Kelly's place of business and asked security to inform him that Arby's had arrived to see him.

Six days after the Adweek story, Kelly was at FCB's offices in Chicago's John Hancock Center preparing to leave early for a secret job interview he'd landed as a result of that profile. Before he could leave, he got a call around 3:30 from the building's front desk letting him know that a team from Arby's was there to see him.

Christopher Fuller, Arby's senior vice president of communications, was there with several members of Arby's marketing team, a bag full of sandwiches, and a black Labrador puppy they had borrowed from a friend. They greeted Kelly and handed him a handwritten note on Arby's stationery: "Cheer up, buddy. You live in a world with puppies...and sandwiches."

Now, other companies and people should take notice, because this is how it's done. Dealing with trolls is annoying, even trolls as relatively benign as Nihilist Arby's. Still, companies and the people that run them have an understandable amount of pride, and being a tool for what must seem like a never ending joke can be uncomfortable, if not not damned infuriating. To their credit, the folks at Arby's decided to go the fun route instead, with an apparent eye towards just simply being human and awesome.

Brown and his leadership team discussed the Adweek profile. Brown said it could be difficult as a CEO to see your company be the subject of harsh jokes, but that the success of playfully sparring with Stewart earlier that year was a teaching moment.

"Do you write a cease-and-desist letter?" Brown said. "The way I look at it is what kind of person do you want to be a friend with? You don't want to be a friend with that kind of a person who's defensive and you can't joke around."

It's a refreshing attitude to see coming from a company as big as Arby's. Kelly, meanwhile, was super into the interaction and posted it to his own Twitter followers, which likely ingratiated the company to the public even more. Smart business, smart PR, all by being awesome and human instead of freaking out.


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jul 2017 @ 6:53am

    I don't like Arby's food, but their marketing is top notch. I have a lot of respect for the business, even if I don't care for the food.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Jul 2017 @ 7:15am

      Re:

      I loved the way they adopted the daily show razzing over the years and then had Stewart following up his jokes by saying how wonderful the people at Arbys were, and generous. Top notch PR and being a community member.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Cowardly Lion, 31 Jul 2017 @ 3:46am

      Worst food

      I've never tried Arbys. Nor have I tried Chick-fil-a or Taco Bell. I'd like to quite honestly, but they're non-existent over here in Western Europe.

      We do have masses of Pizza Huts, Burger Kings, MacDonalds and KFCs though, which is a little disheartening. Worse than even that lot though and far, far worse... there is the "food" sold at Disneyland Paris. It's repulsive and an offense to the world. Shame on you France.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 28 Jul 2017 @ 6:55am

    I'd love to see the guy's face when he say Arby's team at his door. That must have been awesome.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jul 2017 @ 6:56am

    This is an awesome story and it almost makes me want to eat at Arby's until I remember that it's Arby's and not at all good tasting.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Vidiot (profile), 28 Jul 2017 @ 12:08pm

      Re:

      Trying to recall whether it was Arby's or that other cowboy-themed chain that wouldn't place the order unless you actually spoke the words "holster o' fries".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Rapnel (profile), 28 Jul 2017 @ 7:00am

    I came here for puppy sandwiches.

    ...

    I left disappointed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 28 Jul 2017 @ 7:08am

    I thought that Hush Puppies were some kind of flour, not actual puppies.

    Gross.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jul 2017 @ 7:41am

    Actually, if you are a fan of anime, tv shows, movies, and pop culture in general, Arby's Twitter feed is amazing.

    Check it out: https://twitter.com/Arbys

    I promise you won't be disappointed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jul 2017 @ 7:48am

    ?????? Define "troll" so is positive. -- Next, it's okay for a large corporation to let it be known that wishes someone be exposed? -- Third, how did Arby's get a publicity release?

    Fourth, why given the fluff here on powerful Techdirt? A new level of "news-vertising"?

    ALL suggests long-running shill leading to publicity stunt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Jul 2017 @ 7:55am

      Re: ?????? Define "troll" so is positive. -- Next, it's okay for a large corporation to let it be known that wishes someone be exposed? -- Third, how did Arby's get a publicity release?

      Do you smell burnt toast?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Toom1275 (profile), 28 Jul 2017 @ 8:01am

        Re: Re: ?????? Define "troll" so is positive. -- Next, it's okay for a large corporation to let it be known that wishes someone be exposed? -- Third, how did Arby's get a publicity release?

        Foes he taste dry paint?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 28 Jul 2017 @ 8:15am

          Re: Re: Re: ?????? Define "troll" so is positive. -- Next, it's okay for a large corporation to let it be known that wishes someone be exposed? -- Third, how did Arby's get a publicity release?

          out_of_the_blue just hates arby's...

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Dark Helmet (profile), 28 Jul 2017 @ 9:41am

      Re: ?????? Define "troll" so is positive. -- Next, it's okay for a large corporation to let it be known that wishes someone be exposed? -- Third, how did Arby's get a publicity release?

      1. Trolls can range from benign (as I called out in the post) to abusive. I thought that was obvious. Wait, it IS obvious, if you're not suffering from brain injury.

      2. The corporation never "let it be known" they wanted him exposed. That appears nowhere in my post or the source article. Again, brain injury seems like the likely culprit here.

      3. A publicity release FOR WHAT? Malone himself publicized the exchange publicly. Is your brain injury progressive?

      4. We talk about how smart companies engage on the internet just all the time, so I'm not sure why you think this is either fluff or outside the bounds of our normal conversation.

      5. You really need to get that brain injury checked out and treated. You've had it for, like, a REALLY long time. Maybe since birth?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Jul 2017 @ 12:00pm

        Re: Re: ?????? Define "troll" so is positive. -- Next, it's okay for a large corporation to let it be known that wishes someone be exposed? -- Third, how did Arby's get a publicity release?

        >>> 3. A publicity release FOR WHAT? Malone himself publicized the exchange publicly. Is your brain injury progressive?

        I guess wasn't clear that I suspect Arby's and ADVERTISING GUY cooked this up prior.

        "benign" (neutral) to "abusive" still doesn't cover this positive. You don't show any negative aspects. That's not a "troll", then.

        In any case, because you so clearly go to abusive extreme, I can't trust your judgment on fellow trolls:

        Here's the actuality of Timothy Geigner, aka "Dark Helmet", now a paid writer for Techdirt:

        "There are white people, and then there are ignorant motherfuckers like you...."

        http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110621/16071614792/misconceptions-free-abound-why-do-brai ns-stop-zero.shtml#c1869

        Other instances of Geigner are listed in:
        https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110721/11292415198/if-your-comment-section-is-awesome-its-you r-communitys-fault.shtml

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 28 Jul 2017 @ 12:01pm

          Re: Re: Re: ?????? Define "troll" so is positive. -- Next, it's okay for a large corporation to let it be known that wishes someone be exposed? -- Third, how did Arby's get a publicity release?

          By the way, that comment from a browser session that had just made one, was at first blocked with the lying "Held For Moderation".

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 28 Jul 2017 @ 12:16pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: ?????? Define "troll" so is positive. -- Next, it's okay for a large corporation to let it be known that wishes someone be exposed? -- Third, how did Arby's get a publicity release?

            Well aren't you just a precious little snowflake. Don't worry I'm sure your mom can call Timothy's mom and make him stop being mean to you.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 28 Jul 2017 @ 12:58pm

          Re: Re: Re: ?????? Define "troll" so is positive. -- Next, it's okay for a large corporation to let it be known that wishes someone be exposed? -- Third, how did Arby's get a publicity release?

          I've been good friends with Brendan for many years. Arby's knew nothing about this in advance. It's 100% in line with the way Brendan thinks.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2017 @ 5:34pm

          Re: Re: Re: ?????? Define "troll" so is positive. -- Next, it's okay for a large corporation to let it be known that wishes someone be exposed? -- Third, how did Arby's get a publicity release?

          You seem to have a creepy obsession.

          May I suggest some roast beef?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DocGerbil100 (profile), 28 Jul 2017 @ 7:58am

    "Welcome to arbys. We'll be out with your crap in a second. Meanwhile, go sit over there with all the other drones waiting to die Eat arbys"

    Heh. I'm in the UK and I've never seen an Arby's - apparently they used to exist here, but closed years ago. If they ever come back, I'm going to go buy something from them, just because of this. :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Jul 2017 @ 12:28pm

      Re:

      If you'd like, send via post or PayPal some $$ and I'll go there and send you some pics of what "you" had to eat.

      Overall, I don't think that it is all that bad.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Atkray (profile), 29 Jul 2017 @ 5:16pm

        Re: Re:

        It isn't that bad. It is however almost always disappointing. Their marketing convinces me it isn't going to be like last time (cold, grey, half the quantity of beef as the pictures) and so I dutifully march in and order a meal and am disappointed. Again.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    slarabee (profile), 28 Jul 2017 @ 8:58am

    Energy

    I cannot help but thinking, that the entirety of the campaigns, on both sides is an incredible waste of energy and internet space. Makes me wish html and posting on the internet was still a mystery to most like it was back in the early 90s. The internet is a morass of art, opinions, news, false news, and most of it is of no use except the sole purpose of confusing and baffling the general public into conditioned thinking. Don't get me wrong I like Arbys now and then, but I cannot image having the time or energy to follow them on twitter, or to give a flying shit about a marketing/art concept that involves nihilism and Arbys, Why not? Because I have only so many minutes on this earth. I guarantee that had this subject not been brought up on tech dirt, I would have never become aware of it, and my life would be none the less, nor better without it. Not complaining mind you, just saying that it is internet "phenomena" like "Nihilist Arbys" that make me more and more likely to dramatically curtail my internet usage when I retire. Old man rant now over.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jul 2017 @ 8:58am

    Advertising people and the media like to write about crap like this to convince others (and probably themselves) that they matter.

    If Arby's sells good food for a decent price, people will buy it. If their food sucks, no about of PR or advertising or anything else will matter.

    Look at Chic Fl A (or whatever), they serve decent chicken, their people are friendly and their places are clean. Their CEO says something and they get protested, but they still sell, because they deliver a good product. KFC sells probably the best fried chicken in the world, but they are expensive (for fast food) and most of their restaurants are dumps. They struggle. The stupid commercials can't outrun a bad experience.

    No one cares about ads or what others do or say on Twitter. Have a good product and people will buy it. If your product sucks, you are in trouble.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Jul 2017 @ 10:09am

      Re:

      Yeah, advertising and marketing don't work, if you just ignore all data and stick your head in the sand!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Jul 2017 @ 11:30am

        Re: Re:

        2 equal products, marketing works, if your product sucks, no amount of advertising will help after awhile.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2017 @ 5:36pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Oh, so exactly like this case, where Arby's is one of many different fast food restaurants of similar quality and is helped by advertising.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Gracey, 28 Jul 2017 @ 10:43am

      Re:

      Wow ... NO, KFC doesn't sell the best fried chicken in the world - greasy and disgusting is not good.

      So yeah, no amount of advertising would make me eat it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      David (profile), 28 Jul 2017 @ 11:21am

      Re:

      KFC is better than Chick-fil-a? Not in this or any other world! Chick-fil-a's food is better, their staff is better, their facilities are better and their ads are better. My son went to Great Lakes for Navy basic training. When he left Great Lakes, he wanted two things: a Coke and a Chick-fil-a.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 28 Jul 2017 @ 10:57am

    My friend and I used to go to Arbys occasionally, but all the ones around here closed. Now the only ones left in the state are too far to go just for a meal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Paul Brinker, 28 Jul 2017 @ 12:09pm

    Pom Wonderful did something like this :)

    In response to Pom Wonderful segment on John Oliver, they got "In response to our segment in our premiere on food labeling, POM Wonderful sent us a refrigerator full of juice and an elegantly worded letter implying what we can do with it."

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bml8KwCmob8

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Lipto (profile), 28 Jul 2017 @ 5:17pm

    But then...

    A new and, to my mind, excellent and wonderful propriety is being born.

    Rather than knuckle-walking up to this person and threatening him with the usual junk, this enterprise defused, humorized, and got themselves some nice coverage from responsible, recognized, and ... dare I offer... "brilliant and insightful" sites (who are as yet unnamed).

    Hello, Techdirt!

    Thanks!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sudon't, 30 Jul 2017 @ 7:49am

    Arby’s in Chicago?

    I have to say, it takes a lot of nerve to show up in Chicago, a city justly famous for the best beef sandwiches in the World, with a bag of Arby’s. I assume the guy had to be a good sport and eat one.
    If they’d turn that creativity to making an edible, maybe even a tasty, beef sandwich, they might not be the laughing stock of fast-food restaurants. As a truck-driver, I’ve sometimes had no choice but to eat there, and it’s really no laughing matter. A good beef sandwich is such a simple thing. Why can’t they do it?
    Hey Arby’s, next time you’re in Chicago, get a real beef sandwich and see what it’s supposed to taste like.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer
Anonymous number for texting and calling from Hushed. $25 lifetime membership, use code TECHDIRT25
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.