When Infiniti’s logo accidentally appeared in an Audi video ad on WeChat Moments last week, the German automobile brand turned the unexpected crisis on its head.

Tencent Social Ads, the department responsible for delivering WeChat Moments adverts, issued an apology and explained how the wrong ad, launched at 9:00 am and taken offline at 10:30 am, was caused by a careless mistake by its staff.

The blooper generated 3,959 impressions with a total spend of RMB 202, according to Tencent. But the goodwill from this incident has been growing – good news for both Audi and Infiniti despite conjectures that this was an agreed-upon PR stunt.

Both Chinese netizens and competitor auto brands alike made fun of Audi on China’s social media platforms, which drives more free publicity with comments like “Audi is indeed a generous company, spending money on WeChat Moments for Infiniti China”.

Infiniti responded via its Weibo account in Chinese: “Audi, I know you, brother. Received your gift for Infiniti’s 30th anniversary. Let’s light the future and unlock potential together”, while Volvo China posted a cheeky post on Weibo urging “Audi, my friend, help us place an ad too”.

Audi’s reply to both its major rivals smartly used a wise choice of words and injected humour with (to Volvo) “I get what you mean; I’ll give you an answer later” and (to Infiniti) “Infiniti is a superb name. Do you know that actually ‘unlimited possibilities’ is also our motto? May we bravely go on together and create a better possibility for mobility”.

For RMB 202, Audi successfully diverted attention away from the error and turned the incident into a fun and benign ‘frenemy’ interaction.

Audi’s moves are quite in line with the principles of managing social media crises – an increasingly common issue – and dividing the strategy into four key stages. (For more, read Keep calm and carry on: How to manage a social media crisis on WARC). When the conversation catalysts and crisis causes have been identified, the problem should be quantified and initial communication should be made internally, then externally with the public, and privately with the originator of the complaint, if any.

Sourced from Tencent, Audi, Infiniti, Volvo; additional content by WARC staff