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UM Students' Tide Pod Challenge Jokes Irritate This Procter & Gamble Speaker

February 13, 2018, 9:10 PM The Michigan Daily

Some campus undergraduates lack judgment, tact and maturity. (OK, many do -- if they behave the way we did.)

Growing-up lessons kick in sooner or later, sometimes the hard way. For a University of Michigan marketing class, a recent lesson includes an apology to an alumnus who came back as a corporate  speaker.

The Ross School of Business guest, Courtney Ratkowiak, works at Procter & Gamble headquarters as a "consumer and market knowledge manager." She came from Cincinnati to Ann Arbor three weeks ago as part of a recruiting relationship between the company and university where she earned a business degree in 2010.

Courtney Ratkowiak came back to campus to discuss marketing, not the Tide Pod Challenge. (LinkedIn photo)

After talking about marketing tactics for Tide and other brands, she invited questions related to the topic. Some listeners had a different interest, Cory Zayance recounts at The Michigan Daily:

Students, utilizing the anonymous feature of the question-app Pigeonhole Live, sent in a number of questions based on a popular meme centered around millennials eating Tide Pods. . . .

Some of the highest-voted questions included: “What new flavors of Tide Pods do you have coming out?" and "How many Tide Pods a day keep the doctor away?"

The campus reporter quotes an unnamed student who was at the evening lecture:

According to the junior, attendees wanted to post something funny as the questions continued. The representative appeared to be flustered and skimmed over the joke-questions, answering only the serious ones.

"I definitely think most people, including myself, walked out of the presentation thinking that it was funny," the junior said. "Then they told us P&G was reconsidering a relationship with Ross, and that jeopardizes people's chances of working for them."


Another junior speaks on the record:

"It is disappointing that current Ross students would disrespect a Ross alum during a serious presentation . . .," Connor Baechler told The Daily in an email interview. . . .

"I feel especially sorry for any Ross students who are actively interested in starting their careers at P&G. . . . [But] from another perspective, the timing of such a presentation (for a Tide product!) could not have been worse, with all the memes and spoofs about the 'Tide Pod Challenge' floating around social media. I do not think P&G executives or Ross administrators could understand how prevalent the joke had become to any college student."

Course instructor Burcu Tasoluk, a UM visiting research scholar since 2016, rebuked her class in an email:

"We received correspondence from P&G following Monday’s lecture indicating disappointment with students' inappropriate questions during the Q&A and their conduct thereafter (including on social media). Such behavior is disrespectful to the speaker, and reflects poorly on us, Ross, and the University of Michigan."

The student journalist describes the drama's next act: "A small task force of students wrote an apology letter."

Read more:  The Michigan Daily

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