Brand Fails: Let's have a do-over of the disastrous Pepsi ad

If you've visited the internet in the last 2 days then you've obviously seen at least 100 posts on the disaster that is the new Pepsi ad staring uber 'model of the moment', Kendall Jenner. (Update: It's been pulled). It's difficult to know where to start with why this makes everyone feel so "ick" . There are more than a couple reasons. Moreover,  your perspective will obviously be different based on whether or not you're living in Trump's America or you're based outside of that bubble.

Let's start by watching it shall we?

You can read a plethora of reviews ranging from pissed off rants to eloquent criticism (all pretty one-sided) about the frame-by-frame fails of the entire concept from start to finish. I think The UK Independant's article summed it up nicely:

"Pepsi ad review: A scene-by-scene dissection of possibly the worst commercial of all time"

Here are the footnotes:

  • Combatting the issue of police brutality in the US with soft drinks (Yikes)
  • Corporate sponsored protests with no offensive signs (Doubt it)
  • Corporate appropriation of Black Lives Matter (Probably a bad idea...maybe the worst idea)
  • Surgical insertion of cast members in order to "tick off all the boxes" ( muslim photographer, transgendered protestor, african american musician, etc)
  • Self-congratulatory lyrics in the background "We are the lions, we are the chosen, we gonna shine out the dark” ( Great tune but Millennial optimism doesn't necessarily match the current social conversation in the US as of late).
  • Kendall Jenner ditching her modelling gig to join a protest she seems to know nothing about. (Not model behavior...for a protestor)
  • Kendall Jenner ditching her modelling gig to join a protest and handing over her blond wig to a black woman who won't be joining the protest. (Again..yikes)
  • Muslim photographer capturing the decisive moment of Kendall Jenner handing a can of Pepsi to the riot cop (because she obviously works for the tabloids?)
  • Trying to display diversity in a positive light and then making everything just one colour: Pepsi Blue. (I think they call that an oxymoron)

I kept that short on purpose. We've all heard and seen enough.

Conceptually, the ad has been best described as being "tone deaf" and it would be interesting to know just who the hell was in the boardroom when this ad was approved. Let's just pretend they've already been sacked and move on shall we?

Enough with the critique, what could have been done differently?

Here are a few ideas that we've brainstormed for a complete Pepsi do-over:

1. Run a UGC campaign (User-Generated Content) to make your campaign more authentic.

It's a fact: Millennials' decisions are heavily influenced by what decisions their peers make and less so by what large corporations tell them to like or dislike. I'm sure Pepsi could have saved a few hundred thousand dollars and just given their famous soft drink to a cross-section of real people (Kendall Jenner this includes you) where recipients could Instagram the $%^# out of it in whatever way they saw fit. The results might surprise them. Don't underestimate your audience right?! This campaign would have been more authentic, more convincing, and more original to say the very least.

2. Select a high-profile icon who you wouldn't expect to drink Pepsi and create a more intelligent conversation.

No offence Kendall Jenner, you're beautiful, but you're also perceived as a mainstream socialite in American culture and we're not all that convinced you chose Pepsi because you actually drink it. Zero points for authenticity Pepsi. We all know that Pepsi paid the model a ton of money to smile and love Pepsi and no one is surprised about it. But what if it were Lena Dunham? Amy Schumer? Lana del Rey? (that's just cheeky) Rihanna?. Im not saying you could convince them. But I am saying that selecting an American Millennial icon with a "I don't give a $^+" kind of attitude might generate a bit more believability than continuing along the path of using the latest Cindy Crawfords. Call me jealous, but its worth consideration.

3. Incorporate diversity into the physical Pepsi label to celebrate the wide range of people that consume it.

So long as ad managers continue to politicise brands (more now than ever in the Trump era), its important to act inclusively rather than alienate entire cross-sections of the population...or at worst mock them.  Brands need to speak the language of their consumers and why not do so literally? Millennials are highly educated, from all different backgrounds, and many of them multi-lingual as well. Make a campaign that recognises this diversity by incorporating it right onto the label. Try using different languages on cans, let Millennials design your labels, let street artists use your brand as a canvas, get out of the boardroom and allow millennials to direct the campaign.

In summary, Im pretty sure Pepsi won't read this, but for those of you sick of reading hate tweets about their latest campaign, perhaps we've added some ideas in a more fruitful ( and hopefully less idiotic) direction.