Ad-industry insiders spill the beans on how that Pepsi ad got made

‘This kind of thing happens when you don’t have inclusion. Inclusion has to be part of your decision-making process.’

You don’t need to be an advertising executive to see that Pepsi’s ‘protest’ video was a disaster. In fact, it was more than that: it was a disaster of epic proportions, both in terms of expense and brand image.

A lot of us have been asking ourselves what the hell the team behind the ad were thinking. NY Mag‘s Dayna Evans went one step further and asked ad-world insiders for their views on how the video got made and what went wrong. 

‘This ad was the least relatable piece of communication I’ve ever seen’

‘I think the message that Pepsi hoped would come out of it is that Pepsi is in touch with what is going on. It would get young people thinking, “Is Pepsi a brand for me?” But they missed the point. It’s completely overproduced. If you want something to feel at all genuine, why are you using celebrities? Let alone celebrities that have no association whatsoever with the thing you’re advertising.

‘It makes sense that this was done in-house because it doesn’t have the creative rigor that an outside ad agency would bring. People at the agency rip each other to pieces if something isn’t good. It’s harder for that stuff to get made by an ad agency. I think what probably happened in this case is that someone just really wanted to use Kendall Jenner. Someone inside attached themselves to the thought that she is really of the moment. It’s really transparent when we do that. If you’re going to use a celebrity, you really need to have a good reason to use them. The world is craving authenticity, even if authenticity is a completely overused word. People want these things to feel real. Like use real people. This ad was the least relatable piece of communication I’ve ever seen.’

An anonymous industry executive.

‘Products don’t solve problems’

‘It’s not uncommon for corporations to co-opt things that exist in culture — that happens all the time. That no one thought that this particular one was going to be a problem was where the problem was. In the creative process you get so caught up in the bubble of creating, that unless you show it outside of the bubble, you don’t know it’s going to be wrong. Maybe they didn’t test it or they tested it with the wrong people. 

‘The younger people are probably the most junior people on the team; for them to say something, they would have to be really confident in themselves. To have a younger millennial account person go up to a senior creative person and say, “We’re not going to do this, we think there’s a problem with it” – that’s an uncomfortable power position to put a young person into.

‘Products don’t solve problems. They’re trying to present a product as a solution to a very large, very important, very serious cultural and societal problem. The only way a company can get away with doing that kind of thing is if they’re really doing something. You can’t tell me that you’re doing that, Pepsi.’

Mara Epstein, Professor of media studies at Queens College.

‘Who was at the table?’

‘It’s very possible that they did copy testing on the script. But if you’re not doing visual testing, too, then you’re not seeing that it’s socially irresponsible. If you’re not visually seeing it, there may have been a disconnect.

‘This kind of thing happens when you don’t have inclusion. Inclusion has to be part of your decision-making process. If there are no decision makers that represent the world that it is now, the world as we see it, then these kinds of things happen.’

Deadra Rahaman, senior consultant with Urban Icon Agency.

‘Whoa, I can’t believe that message was that off-base’

‘There is something about crafting a spot that obviously has this much attention put into it. You don’t get Kendall. You don’t go on set and have a white cop being handed a Pepsi. From the catering to the creative director, it’s crazy that no one said, “Hey, this isn’t cool.” There were a lot of extras on that set. But you know what, it’s a business. They’re getting paid to do it. Back in the day, it’d be about the talent: Whoa, I can’t believe Bob Dylan sold out. But now, it’s a different conversation: Whoa, I can’t believe that message was that off-base, that so much money and attention was behind it.

‘You’re always going to get into trouble with some group when you’re selling carbonated soda. That is a touch point no matter what. There is a way to sell something that a vast majority of people will buy and tend to like and still put your foot down for things you believe in. You can easily not be perfect but be working towards supporting things better.’

Nick Childs, CCO of Society.

[Via NY Magazine]


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