It has been a long week for Pepsi and it all started last Wednesday. The beverage company released a new ad campaign that had social media in a frenzy. The scandal broke to me on Instagram with a post by Black voices. The post showed Kendall Jenner handing a can of Pepsi to a policeman and below it the infamous photo of Ieshia Evans. facing armed policemen during the Barton Rouge protest. The caption read “#Pepsi and Kendall Jenner just co-opted the resistance to help sell beverages. Their new ad shows it all and it has lots of people justifiably angry AF ‘.
Never someone to be left behind I went on Youtube and watched the ad, and understood what the craziness was all about. If you haven’t seen the, ad here is it.
Angry yet? If you still don’t understand let me explain.
Pepsi new ad campaign “Live for the Moment” shows a large crowd of protestors, all ethnically diverse, marching on the street. They are holding signs that read join the conversation and unity. Everyone is smiling, onlookers are drinking Pepsi, and there is even music and breaking dancing. A true representation of what happens during a protesting right? I mean during the Women Day March in DC there was cellists and break dancers.
Everyone is at this march black Muslim men, white women, transexuals, the young, and the old. Everyone is here for Pepsi… I mean unity.
“Coincidently” supermodel Kendall Jenner is on set of her photo shoot while the protest is happening. She stares at the protestors, longing to join until one of the protestors nods at her to join them. She rips off her wig, wipes her lipstick off and walks off set because it’s just that easy in a Pepsi ad.
She pushes her way to the front of the crowd where a line of police officers are waiting for the protestors. She picks up a can of Pepsi and walks to the policeman and hands him the drink. The policeman smiles and accepts the Pepsi and the crowd cheers,“YAAYY” day saved by Kendall Jenner and the miracle Pepsi can #LiveforNow.
Do you understand now? The ad waters- down the real purpose of protesting, and how dangerous it actually is. The Pepsi ad was interpreted by viewers as making light of serious human rights issue and people took Twitter to express their anger. The hashtags #PepsiLivesMatter an obvious parody to #BlackLivesMatter began trending.
Pepsi issued a public apology and the ad was taken down.
PR Weekly asked public relations practitioners to weigh in on the ad. The majority felt the ad failed from a PR standpoint but Mary Harding, MD at PR agency Tangerine, said that Pepsi marketing team is probably over the moon with the reaction. Marketing and PR while very similar have different approaches and results in creating successful content.
Richard Bailey, public relation practitioner and author of Building your Brand Online (Share this too, 2013), states the first golden rule of content is Be Interesting. Vikki Chowney director of content and publishing strategies at H+ K Strategies published the 7 steps to planning your content. For the purpose of this blog post, we will be looking at Steps 1,2,3 and 5.
Step 1: Work out Brands Purpose
Pepsi Mission Statement is about proving affordable food and drinks to customers worldwide. The ad’s purpose was to promote unity, peace, and understanding, but it wasn’t received that way. That is the problem with social media, you have no way controlling how the message is being perceived.
Step 2: Map your audience
Pepsi new ad was clearly targeted to a diverse and younger audience. However what they failed to map out was just how serious millennials take social injustice issue. Millenials are described as being socially conscious to environmental and political issues. Pepsi should have been sensitive to that and handled the topic of protesting and social issues with care.
Step 3: What are you saying
In Pepsi public apology statement the company said the message behind the ad was about unity, peace, and understanding. But the ad came across as fake, with all the dancing and smiling. It wasn’t a real representation of protesting and it ended up coming across as disrespectful.
Step 5: Who are you working with
The star of the commercial is Kendall Jenner, and it is clear that Pepsi aim in casting the young supermodel was to attract a younger audience. However casting Kendall Jenner was probably the biggest mistake. If the ad is about standing up to social injustice, why would you cast Kendall Jenner who has never publicly spoken out about social issues on social media? It just continued to make Pepsi look like another corporate giant pretending to care about the issues to make money.
Pepsi’s “Live for the moment” ad was insensitive whether they meant it or not, and in result faced the wrath of Twitter.