Wix negative ads attacking WordPress created a strong anti-Wix response online. Promotional Bose headphones sent to developers and online marketing influencers as part of the campaign did not prevent the recipients to publicly question the effort to promote with a negative attack.
The campaign did not appear to convert anyone in the WordPress community to appreciate Wix. The campaign seemed to actually backfire by causing many to express negative reactions toward Wix.
The Update Button of Doom – You Deserve Better
The Wix negative campaign appeared to be centered on portraying WordPress in an extremely negative light in the context of a web developer seeking help for a mental health crisis.
One video, titled The Update of Doom, is typical of the attack ads.
In it a web developer is in psychiatric counseling. The subtext is that WordPress is so bad that the web developer needs psychiatric help.
Screenshot From Wix Attack Ad Portraying a Web Developer in a Mental Crisis
The choice of portraying WordPress in the context of mental health distress is curious in light of the fact that so many people are suffering pandemic related mental health crises.
According to research by the Kaiser Family Foundation:
“During the pandemic, about 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder… up from one in ten adults who reported these symptoms from January to June 2019
…During the pandemic, a larger than average share of young adults (ages 18-24) report symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder (56%). Compared to all adults, young adults are more likely to report substance use (25% vs. 13%) and suicidal thoughts (26% vs. 11%).”
In the Wix ad a psychiatric visit is staged for comedic effect by portraying WordPress as an insensitive person who causes mental anguish.
Some may perceive the ad as trivializing mental health by using it in a context of comedy, particularly because WordPress was portrayed as a grotesquely ill person whose eyes are spinning around in their sockets.
Screenshot from Wix Attack Ad Portraying WordPress With Eyes Spinning in their Sockets
And this was just one of several ads that were staged as a mental health crisis.
Some of the responses on YouTube expressed disapproval:
“It’s surprising that Wix isn’t embarrassed to post content like this. Who in the world thought that this was a good idea?”
“WOW, how low can you go, this is called the bottom of the barrel”
“Shame on you Wix. I’ve never considered using your services, and never will.”
Search Marketing Community Responds on Twitter
The response was similar on Twitter where Jon Henshaw (@henshaw) expressed his disapproval with the negative advertising approach, remarking that only poor products are marketed in this manner.
Watching this anti-@WordPress campaign by @Wix and all I can think about is how much they're asking the universe to hack them and how embarrassing that's going to be for them. Also, I really dislike this marketing approach. Typically, I only see inferior products market this way.
— Jon Henshaw (@henshaw) April 7, 2021
John also noted that the Wix ads may have erased the goodwill Wix had been building within the SEO community:
What's interesting to me is that for the past year or so there was a sentiment that Wix was courting SEOs and improving itself.
By shitting on WP, a beloved and oft-used CMS by many SEOs, it erases any goodwill created. And many of us SEOs influence which CMS a business chooses.
— Jon Henshaw (@henshaw) April 7, 2021
Wix Campaign Described as Distasteful
Shelly Fagin (@shellyfagin), a recipient of the headphone promotion also tweeted that her expectation was to hear about positive things about Wix only to be confronted with a negative attack campaign, calling it distasteful.
As a headphone receiver, I was totally confused by it all. I expected to be provided info about new features and/or fixes that would make it more appealing to me. I’m not a fan of bashing others to promote myself so it felt very distasteful to me.
— Shelly Fagin (@shellyfagin) April 7, 2021
Michelle Lowery (@MichelleDLowery) disapproved of negative messaging:
Wow. I hadn't seen any of those videos yet. This reminds me of politicians going the negative campaign route. Don't tell me how awful the other candidate is. That means nothing. Tell me what *you're* going to do for me. I can decide for myself without the mud slinging.
— Michelle Lowery (@MichelleDLowery) April 7, 2021
Matt Mullenweg, Founder of WordPress Responds
Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress responded by highlighting that every site building competitor of WordPress supports exporting websites to competing companies and only Wix traps users into their platform.
“Wix is a for-profit company… whose business model is getting customers to pay more and more every year and making it difficult to leave or get a refund. (Don’t take my word for it, look at their investor presentations.)
They are so insecure that they are also the only website creator I’m aware of that doesn’t allow you to export your content, so they’re like a roach motel where you can check in but never check out. Once you buy into their proprietary stack you’re locked in, which even their support documentation admits…
So if we’re comparing website builders to abusive relationships, Wix is one that locks you in the basement and doesn’t let you leave. I’m surprised consumer protection agencies haven’t gone after them.”
Positive Campaigns and Goodwill
One of the hallmarks of a valued brand is the goodwill that customers and even non-customers extend to the company. While the response to the ads were not universally negative, a great deal of the responses were. Many expressed disappointment in the approach taken by Wix.
Response by WordPress Founder Matt Mullenweg:
Wix and Their Dirty Tricks