Adecco apologizes after accusations it co-opted an online brand

The giant staffing firm launched an ‘Around the World in 80 Jobs’ contest, and it took a lot of heat from a travel blogger and his followers. There was even a hashtag.


When major corporations go after an everyman, nobody wins.

Turner Barr is learning this first hand. Barr launched a travel blog in 2011 called “Around the World in 80 Jobs.” This summer, Adecco launched a contest of the same name and sought to trademark it.

It got worse. Adecco created a promotional video for the contest featuring a person who looked and sounded like Barr.

Barr writes in a recent blog post:

Recently, I was both astonished and demoralized to find that my entire brand, image and web personality was swiped for use in a marketing campaign by some massive multi-billion dollar a year company, without ever being asked for permission or acknowledged. The video for their marketing campaign was particularly creepy for me, as even my age and personality didn’t escape the level of detail spent on creating this doppelganger (they used a paid actor of course).

His fans and followers became enraged and urged Adecco via Twitter to #makeitright. The negative PR led Adecco to acquiesce.

Adecco has renamed the contest “The Work Experience Contest,” and it issued the following statement June 21:

We deeply regret if we hurt Turner Barr. This was never our intention when we set up our “Around the World in 80 Jobs” contest. We clearly see that Turner is an inspiration to many people. We feel there should be more of such initiatives that inspire people to live their dreams and achieve their ambitions. Unfortunately, we moved forward with a name and contest that clearly upset Turner and his community. We sincerely apologize for that mistake. When Turner contacted us about his concern, and we understood the full situation, we immediately engaged with him to try to make things right. Unfortunately, we have been unable to find common ground so far…

In a follow-up blog post, Barr asked the company for an apology, $50,000 for himself (what he estimates they paid their advertising firm), to cease and desist using his brand name, and to donate $50,000 to the Save the Elephant Foundation.

On June 26, two days after Barr posted his request:

We have spoken with Turner and have come to an agreement about how we can make it right with him. Sometimes corporations can make mistakes. We are sorry, Turner.

We will also deliver on our promise to the youngsters who won and deserve a unique job experience. We will make sure that every winner experiences the possibilities and opportunities the world of work brings.

We’ve learned a lot in the past few weeks. We will work to make this right. We will do this because we are a company of great people who sometimes make mistakes, learn from them and do better next time.

Although no one really came out victorious, it does seem heartening that a corporation has worked so diligently to remedy a mistake.

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