April 18, 2012, 10:05 AM

French retailer La Redoute turns a naked man faux pas into more site traffic

The e-retailer uses an embarrassing mistake to generate online buzz and publicity.  

Lead Photo

An ad that plays off the faux pas.

France-based fashion e-retailer La Redoute says it turned the bad buzz from the accidental publishing of a photo of a naked man on its web site into good publicity.

The photo, posted in January on its e-commerce site Laredoute.fr, shows four children frolicking arm and arm through the sand in a beachwear advertisement—and a nude man wading through the water in the background. 

“A dizzy photographer forgot to crop during editing,” says Frédéric Martinet, analytics consultant and founder of Actuintelligence, a firm that helps businesses manage their online reputations.



The discovery of the offensive image by an online shopper sparked consumer commotion and criticism of La Redoute, as word of the image spread across social networks Facebook and Twitter. 

Three months later, however, the brand ended up benefiting from the uproar, says Anne-Véronique Baylac, La Redoute’s director of e-commerce, who conceded she was embarrassed by the incident. “The buzz actually took a positive direction,” she told attendees at recent e-commerce conference in Monaco.

Following the incident, La Redoute’s e-commerce and community teams quickly swung into action to monitor consumers’ reaction to the incident, Baylac said. The retailer also posted a video apology on its Facebook page in February. “I asked my teams to go through the thousands of photos on the site with a fine-tooth comb,” Baylac says during the video. She then called on the company’s Facebook followers to help La Redoute uncover any further errors on its site, offering “to clothe each winner from foot to toe” as a prize.

La Redoute then intentionally planted dozens of fake images, including one of an alligator in a family wading pool and another for a men’s sweater marked down by 99% from 60,000 euros to 25 euros.

“We thought it would be a shame not to react.” she said. “So we mounted a counter-buzz, launching the game on La Redoute’s Facebook page, which involved detecting errors on the web site. There was massive participation, and in one day all errors were found.”

Baylac says she was surprised by the results of the campaign. “Our apologies were widely acknowledged and praised, and the tone, in general, was rather amusing and friendly,” she said.

Not only did the game help the retailer boost its reputation, it also generated major traffic to La Redoute’s site, Martinet of Actuintelligence says.

“The journalist in question probably provoked the most significant peak in traffic La Redoute.fr has experienced in the last decade,” he says, adding that La Redoute’s quick-witted strategy added to the buzz. “The buzz was a transient thing, and was probably largely due to the competition launched by La Redoute that had consumers search for doctored images posted deliberately by the retailer.”

He says his firm, which tracks traffic to web sites that participate in the  Google Double Click online advertising network, experienced a 50% increase in visits to the retailer’s site during the game.  

And that’s not counting the press the stunt got the retailer. “La Redoute is ‘surfing’ on the naked man!” and “La Redoute is bouncing back” are just a few of the recent headlines on French news sites and in daily newspapers.

Competitor mail order site 3suisses.fr also got in on the action with an advertisement for male swimsuits on its Facebook page. It used a photo mocked up to imitate the now infamous La Redoute advertisement, only with the male model dressed. The image’s accompanying text reads:  “Obviously not every knows we have swimsuits priced from 9.99 euros.”

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