A social media campaign from U.K. potato chip manufacturer Walkers Crisps has failed spectacularly after it was hijacked by Twitter users.
Ahead of the UEFA Champions League final in Cardiff on June 3 -- the most prestigious game in the European season -- Walkers launched the #WalkersWave campaign, offering fans the chance to win tickets to the big match between Real Madrid and Juventus.
The idea behind the initiative was simple: users would reply with a selfie to a Tweet from the official Walkers Crisps account, using the hashtag #WalkersWave. Their picture would then appear in a video alongside former England international Gary Lineker.
Unfortunately, and despite its best intentions, the #WalkersWave soon became the victim of a macabre prank. Instead of sending genuine selfies of themselves, some users decided to upload portraits of mass murderers and serial pedophiles.
These included Harold Shipman, a doctor who murdered hundreds of his patients; the disgraced entertainer Jimmy Savile, regarded by many as one of the U.K.'s most prolific sex offenders; and the sadistic serial killer Fred West. An image of Joseph Stalin, the former leader of the Soviet Union, was also uploaded.
Walkers took steps to limit the damage once it realised the campaign had been hijacked. "We recognise people were offended by irresponsible & offensive posts & we apologise," the company said in a Tweet. "We are equally upset & have shut the activity down."
For his part, Lineker – known for his witty asides – Tweeted that he had "had an unusual day in some very strange company."
This is not the first time a major brand – or high profile individual – has been duped online.
In 2014, a Twitter user managed to trick now President Donald Trump into retweeting a picture of serial killers Fred and Rose West.
The user told Trump that his late "parents" said he was a "big inspiration" and asked for a retweet in their memory, which Trump duly provided. When he realized the true nature of the image Trump was, unsurprisingly, unhappy.