This article originally appeared on 60 Second Social.

There is nothing worse than coming up with a social media campaign which you think is excellent however it ends up being a disaster. You don’t get the response you wanted, you don’t get the participation you hoped for. It can be tough to stomach and pick yourself up again. So what happens if you come up with something you thought was a great idea but could actually be a breach of the law?

You need to think ever so carefully when you come up with a plan, particularly if that plan for a campaign has teenagers and young adults as the target audience. This month another PR gaffe is making headlines: The Topps Company (maker of the Ring Pop jewel-shaped sweet on a plastic ring which seems to be only available in America now).

The Ring Pop candy as featured in the R5 music video

Topps may be investigated by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) for their most recent social media campaign – #RockThatRock – a promotion which invited teens to upload photos of themselves wearing ring pops to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The complaint against Topps claims that the campaign violates the Chidrens Online Privacy Protection Act by collecting and disclosing personal data from children under the age of 13 without parents permission. Not the outcome the company was hoping for.

blog post by the New York Times reports that the company launched the campaign by inviting teens to submit pictures of “the ways they ‘rock’ their edible bling” which submissions going up on the company social media websites along with contestant names. Winning photos were also featured in a music video by R5, a pop-rock band in America popular with teens.

However, some of the photos featured teenage girls and some who even appear younger in provocative poses with their lips wrapped around the Ring Pop sweets. Naturally, parents and advocacy groups erupted in rage.

“Showing young girls licking the candy in a Lolita-type way, it’s outrageous,” Michael Brody, a child psychiatrist in Potomac, Md., told the New York Times. “By knowing the contestants’ user names you could get in contact with them. Children shouldn’t be put in this situation.”

Oh dear, as brands work hard to engage with various different demographics on social media, it is important to think through their campaigns as much as they possibly can before they decide to launch one in the public domain. What started as an innocent campaign and idea from Topps has spiralled out of the control of the company.

What sounds as a great idea for marketing may not play out as well as you hoped when it launches online. Brands need to consider all possible situations and scenarios that could occur before deciding to launch a campaign and plan how you will respond should it start to go wrong.

However more important than all is to make sure that an innocent idea for good marketing is not going to possible breach the law. Specifically, campaigns targeted for teenagers need to ideally be vetted by legal advisors before launching them in order to make sure that they are playing in the lines of what is considered acceptable.

So as you plan ahead for 2015 and start thinking of social media campaigns you want to run next year, try to remember this: Before you proceed with launching a campaign, make sure you get legal counsel where appropriate and think through all the possible outcomes, including the nasty ones.

About The Author

Mark is the founder of 60 Second Social media where he provides social media news and digital marketing analysis, he is also a proud father of his bearded dragon, Lola. You can follow him on Twitter here. You can also follow 60 Second Social on Twitter here.

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