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PR meltdown as automaker announces ‘BFF’ winner of car giveaway

It has been a week of public relation faux pas for local brands using social media this week after both Qantas and now Nissan Australia face an online backlash.

The automaker has put the nose of more than a few customers out of joint after things went awry with its Facebook competition.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the winner of its free car giveaway was Zac Martin, a digital strategist with George Patterson Y&R.

But Martin is also a close friend Simon Oboler, customer experience channel co-ordinator of Nissan, who is responsible for the company's Facebook and other social media pages.

And on his blog Martin describes Oboler as his "BFF", which is an abbreviation for 'best friend forever'.

A number of $1,250 vouchers were given away as part of the same promotion, but again another friend of Oboler took home the cash prize – Nina Igel is Facebook friends with the Nissan Australia employee.

When announcing the winner a representative from the brand was open about the fact customers may feel that the competition was not run fairly.

"With all honesty and the best of intentions, we wish you hadn't won."

Nissan said: "The reality is that he won fair and square and all is fully above board."

The brand made it clear that while the outcome may not have been the one they were hoping for they can not prevent friends and acquaintances of employees from entering.

And while a number of customers have taken to Facebook to raise their concerns with the automaker, it seems that the game which involved spotting the most Micra's was still run competitively.

Industry experts have suggested that it would be difficult to rig a competition of this kind due to the way it was set up, which is not based on any subjective criteria.

One marketing analyst told the SMH: "There was a database that chose him as the correct winner because he engaged the most fully in the competition."

Posted by Aimee McBride