Pepsi Ad Falls Flat!

Pepsi, the bubbly cola of a the uber-hip crowd that has been synonymous with ‘cool’ by creating some of the ad industry’s most popular advertisements ever, has gone flat lately.

The two minute-plus commercial they just released and quickly retracted has received more reaction than Pepsi could have anticipated. And most of it has been pungently negative.

If you haven’t born witness to it already, here you go:

In fairness, this is not entirely Kendall Jenner’s fault. While the vapid reality star and model bears responsibility for signing on, the fault in this tone-deaf piece belongs to the in-house creative team at Pepsi that put it together,

Those muppets, along with the supremely blind executives who green-lit the ad have set a new standard for appalling advertising for a meaningless product with no intrinsic value. If that was not bad enough, they have cast a pall over the much-loved brand by positioning Pepsi as the healing antidote for all that ails our fractured and frustrated society.

The multitude of demonstrations and marches that have taken place in the United States in the last two years, fuelled by anger and mistrust of an increasingly militarized police culture which has caused uproar from Ferguson to Baltimore, and even Toronto, is not sugary, bubbly or something to dance about.

The Millennials Pepsi is targeting with this ad, are a large component of these demonstrations because they, like many other demographic pockets, are outraged by what they see as a dark march toward intolerance – and even fascism

Amid this troubling backdrop, Pepsi waltzes in to suggest that happy, go-lucky marches are a better option; and that the best way to prevent the cops from busting your head open with their truncheons is to offer one of them a can of Pepsi. A can of fucking Pepsi!

We understand the absolute necessity of taking chances when creating breakthrough advertising. This ad was not that, at all. It was vapid, cynical and out of touch with reality. Yes, reality – which is a terrible place for a soda pop to ever try stepping into in the first place. Pepsi is about as real as Disney World, which has never hosted a militant march.

To suggest that a can of flavoured, coloured water could make the world a happier place, in today’s bitter and divisive climate, was enough to turn the internet, their brand community, and their target audience against them.

Sure, Coke did it back in ‘71. The difference today is – we won’t be fooled again. The world needs and deserves more than soda pop.


Wayne S. Roberts

The Globe and Mail calls Wayne S. Roberts "an ad industry provocateur." Maybe its because he's never seen the point of playing by the ad game rules that place awards above results, while offering spec work instead of real value to win accounts. Throughout his career, Wayne has maintained a defiantly independent streak characterized by his insistence that agencies must be honest, direct and passionately invested in their clients' success. His pioneering work in espousing the brand community perspective has been a touchstone of his belief that branding is more than just logos, websites and ad campaigns; it is the fundamental way human beings connect with each other to create communities and launch movements that have changed our world.

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