Life is short; have an affair! So says the tagline for dating website Ashley Madison. The site that links members seeking extramarital affairs now finds itself in the headlines. While Ashley Madison thinks infidelity provides endless fun, the Queen of Spain does not agree – she is suing the website for “damage to her honor and dignity.”
The site is known for its provocative advertisements. The latest featured a doctored photo of the Spanish monarch with her royal arms draped around a semi-naked man, with the promise “Now you no longer have to spend the night alone.” The ad, widely believed to be cashing in on rumors of King Juan Carlos’s philandering, led Queen Sofia to promptly file suit.
The news comes in the same week that a Spanish waiter and a Belgian housewife lost legal bids to prove they are the illegitimate children of the 74-year-old king. Ashley Madison previously ran a similar ad using a Photoshopped picture of the King flanked by two models with the tagline, “The best place to ‘hunt’ for an adventure.” At the time, King Juan turned the other cheek and took no legal action. The ball is now in Sofia’s court, and she’s throwing it back hard.
The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Queen Sofia. As a warning shot, this sends the signal she intended.
The PR Takeway: It’s okay not to go “all the way”; sometimes starting a legal action is enough in itself, even if you don’t intend to finish what you started. The Queen has some measure of public sympathy on her side with no whiff of scandal, unlike her husband. As unlikely as this case is to go to court, she has fired a warning shot that she will defend her reputation. In so doing, she has also taken the attention away from her husband’s recent travails in court. Her actions might be the game and conversation changer both King and Queen were seeking.
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