Sales & Marketing

Consequences of forgetting to renew your domain name – aka when Heinz served customers porn

4 min read

24 June 2015

Heinz has had to apologise for taunting customers with marketing techniques much too saucy for them to handle.

Between 2012 and 2014 the company ran a special promotion which involved having people scan a QR code in order to design their own label. This code was linked to a URL used only for the “Spread the word with Heinz” competition. 

However, after the promotion ended, Heinz allowed the domain name to lapse, causing it to subsequently be purchased by a german company in the adult entertainment sector. According to the Mirror, it led to a porn page run by Fundorado

This meant that from 2014 to now, those who scanned the code were in risk of getting far more than they bargained for.

The mishap was spotted by Daniel Korell, who suggested that he scanned it during lunch and was surprised when he got redirected to something else entirely.

“I found it rather funny and thought it was worth sharing on Heinz’s Facebook page,” he added. He reported the issue to the company, telling them: “Your ketchup is probably not for minors.”

He said he believed he bought the bottle recently, but that the registration of the URL had lapsed because the related promotion had ended. 

Heinz sent him a free bottle as a thank you for bringing it to the company’s attention.

Read more about porn:

“We really regret the incident,” a Heinz representative said on Facebook. However, Korell responded by stating that while the bottle may be a remnant, it is certainly still present in many households.

“It is incomprehensible that you cannot secure the domain for at least one or two years,” he said. “A .com domain really does not cost the world.”

The pornography site also offered Kroll a free subscription to its service.

Graham Cluley, an online security expert, said: “QR codes can point to anywhere on the web. The problem is that humans don’t have a clue where they’re going to be taken because their brain can’t read a QR code, like they can a regular URL. It seems Heinz failed to renew their registration of the domain name, so it slipped out of their hands and was snatched up by an opportunistic porn site.”

He suggested that in future Heinz would need to think of redirecting any customers via heinz.com, rather than directly to a custom site for a specific campaign.

However, the condiment company is not the first to forget to renew a domain name with embarrassing consequences. Sony allowed its online entertainment domain SOE.com to expire, taking down the entire service in 2014. 

Essentially, the company forgot to pay for its domain name and ending up losing its website. According to Sony, all payment notices had been “sent to [the] wrong email” over a number of weeks. 

Of course, after the company paid up, the sites were back up and running.

And after the FBI seized Megaupload.com domain from Kim Dotcom, it began serving pornography, drugs and malware after it expired while still being controlled by the US government – really!