Microsoft twits slammed over Japan earthquake ad

Microsoft's marketing department is reeling from a public backlash over what has been perceived as a crass attempt to cash in on the disastrous earthquake which has caused so much devastation throughout Japan.

With the magnitude 8.9 earthquake, which hit Japan 81 miles east of Sendai two days ago, causing massive damage - including worrying issues with a nuclear power plant, which is believed to be leaking radiation at high levels - fund raisers have been rushing to get aid to the country, with companies joining the effort and putting their hands in the pockets to help.

Microsoft's 'corporate citizenship' department figured it would get in on the act, pledging to donate $100,000 to relief efforts - but in parcels of $1 at a time, paid out if people would repost a message sent via microblogging service Twitter.

The message read: "How you can #SupportJapan - http://binged.it/fEh7iT. For every retweet, @bing will give $1 to Japan quake victims, up to $100K."

While the offer to donate $100,000 is certainly welcome, the Internet has been up in arms over Microsoft's demand to receive 100,000 messages advertising Bing and its generosity before the money will be donated - to the point where any good feeling from the offer to donate funds was more than lost in a wave of ill-will toward's the company's marketing department.

Following the backlash, a spokesperson has apologised for the marketing stunt, stating via Twitter: "We apologize the tweet was negatively perceived. Intent was to provide an easy way for people to help Japan. We have donated $100K."

While this means a positive outcome for the relief effort, the ill thought out marketing exercise could have caused significantly more than $100,000 worth of damage to Bing's brand - an indication that services such as Twitter are perhaps a trifle too quick and easy for marketing departments to misuse.