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  • 10.20.09

Lap Dances at Yahoo’s Hack Days? A Lesson in Monitoring a Global Brand

Lap Dances at Yahoo’s Hack Days? A Lesson in Monitoring a Global Brand
yahoo hack day 2009

“Scantily clad gyrating women” who give lap dances to
men on your company’s dime can damage your brand within seconds. Who’s in the
hot seat today? Yahoo! It appears that Hack Days are quite a different
experience in Taiwan than in the United States. While pictures on Flickr and video footage on Vimeo from the 2009 Hack Day festivities have been removed for public viewing in the past few hours, photos from the 2008 conference and screenshots from the 2009 event, show women dancing in little clothing and performing lap dances for men.

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While some argue that this is culturally accepted in Taiwan, treating women like pieces of meat is not ok and it’s not going to help Yahoo’s global brand and increase profits. 52% of Yahoo’s demographics are women, according to Quantcast. Offending them is a bad idea.

When Disaster Strikes, Respond Fast!

It took Yahoo over 24 hours to respond to the fiasco, and
only after several people on Twitter signed an act.ly petition targeting @Yahoo and slammed them. Prior to the Twitter petition though, many people like Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr publically expressed their disgust with Yahoo’s choice of entertainment. “@Yahoo, for shame: http://flic.kr/p/78btX1 I’m frankly disgusted.” It was distributed to women’s tech listserv’s. People also forwarded the photos to colleagues at Yahoo asking for an explanation. Yet, Yahoo ignored it for over 24 hours. Note: 24 hours is a long
time in the social media space where people can easily take control of your
brand.

Was Yahoo hoping the photos and video would go away? Many actually did disappear, but people took screenshots to share and ensure that the event was properly documented. Never under estimate the power of smart people who feel wronged and are social media savvy. Were Yahoo execs racking their brains to develop a good PR response? I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I can tell you that Yahoo’s lack of response hurt their brand because it looked like they were hiding from embarrassment instead of taking responsibility and addressing it head on. It also alienated many women in the tech community. This could present problems for future employee recruitment of women candidates. Some people even commented that they were going to stop using Yahoo’s search engine. Others reminded the community of the irony of an article Tech Crunch wrote in 2006 entitled: All
Women Team Takes Yahoo Hack Day Top Prize

Yahoo’s only response (at the time this blog post was written) to the company funded lap dances was the following. “Hack Girls from Y!’s Taiwan event don’t reflect our values. Was inappropriate, we regret offending anyone. We’ll ensure won’t happen
again.”

What I would like to know is when did Hack Days turn into
strip clubs? And what yahoo thought that using Yahoo’s global brand and money
to degrade women was ok?

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Allyson Kapin is the Founding Partner of Rad Campaign and the Founder of Women Who Tech. You can follow her on Twitter.

About the author

Allyson has been named one of "Top Tech Titans" by the Washingtonian, one of the Most Influential Women In Tech by Fast Company and one of the top 30 women entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter by Forbes for her leadership role in technology and social media. As Founding Partner of Rad Campaign she leads the firm’s client and online strategic services.

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