What can we learn from the backlash that the Pepsi ad faced?
On the 5th April Pepsi became the trending topic on Twitter, with over 62,000 tweets, but not because of praise. The brand was criticised for its commercial starring supermodel Kendall Jenner and created by PepsiCo.’s in-house content creation arm Creators. The 2:39 spot, consisted of Jenner in the middle of a modelling shoot. Meanwhile, protestors march by with signs reading “Join the Conversation,” Shortly after Jenner then joins the march and then picks up a can of Pepsi and attempts to broker piece between the police and the people. She was indeed successful.
Consumers expressed their disgust for the spot on social, noting that it achieves a new level of tone-deafness with the scenario. So here we have it; Jenner—a white, wealthy (not to mention famous) American—bridging the divide between white male police and protestors. Moreover, the choice of using Jenner to front the campaign was equally criticised as she has never been known to publically address issues such as injustice.
So how did consumers react to this?
Most people expressed their sheer disgust emphasising that the advert achieves a new level of ‘tone-deafness.’
The soft-drink company later pulled the ad after it was widely slammed on social media for co-opting social movements such as Black Lives Matter and the Women’s March. The company also apologized to Jenner, saying, “Clearly, we missed the mark.”
So where did the brand go wrong?
As a proudly diverse boutique Agency we understand the importance of diversity in PR. We believe that such unfavourable outcome is as a result of an extreme lack of diversity- and diversity of thought-in marketing/PR departments.
Unless Agencies are more culturally aware, then such distasteful campaigns can easily repeat itself because agencies who are much less diverse wont necessarily understand sensitive and controversial topics- neither would they really be able to resonate with the brutal realities of them. If such topics were not wholly understood, then consumers who are affected by such issues would deem campaigns that attempt to highlight them as offensive and insensitive, which is clearly what has happened here.
Diversity should not just be for the sake of tokenism; it should be taken very seriously and viewed as an absolute necessity into agencies. We must begin to realise that in order to connect with a wide range of consumers, we must have strong teams of assorted types of people of different ethnicities. As well as gender and age-as they will be a genuine reflection of the people who love the product and therefore assist in making more appropriate bold and innovative brand decisions that would be relatable to those beyond their ‘bubble’.