Controversial Pepsi TVC: Money Down the Drain as Pepsico in-House Agency Takes the Flak
The Pepsico’s controversial Kendall Jenner Tv campaign might just be a case in point in marketing gone awry. The multi million dollars campaign was on Wednesday pull off the air in response to antagonists who do not see Kendall fitting into the role Pepsi created for her.
Apart from financial losses incurred, experts say the company “still faces an uphill struggle to recover from its marketing misstep”.
“Pepsi has tried a lot of things but somehow they’ve totally lost their way,” said Mike Jackson,Principal, 2050 Marketing, Los Angeles adding that “They just don’t seem focused.”
Immediately the Pepsi Kendall commercial went on air, consumers’ responses were swift via social media. They twitted unpleasant comments about a Pepsi drink somehow making a difference in marches or protests.
Reports have it that Bernice King, the youngest daughter of slain civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., entered the controversy with a biting post: @BerniceKing: If only Daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi.
Without much ado, faced by the barrage sarcastic remarks, Pepsico pulled down the ad with a statement which reads in part, that the company “was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding.”
“Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are removing the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position”, the company accepted.
The company in recent times has been hampered by its weaker international exposure compared to archrival, Coca-Cola.
As it is often decried in the Nigerian Advertising and marketing communications industry, the entire episode displays the inefficiencies of in-house agency concept.
A source close to Pepsico, Jackson, a CNBC contributor who worked at Pepsi in the 1980s, revealed “the company has been through several creative teams over the years and changed ad agencies and now appears to be doing more work through an in-house studio”. Jackson added that the in-house studio is believed to have produced the controversial commercial.
Steve Babaeko, CEO, X3M Ideas, Lagos had earlier in the year in his interviews with the New York Festival Magazine (US) and Thisday Newspapers (Nigeria) predicted that clients with propensity for doing the clients’ work will get their hands burnt. Making a comment on the Pepsi issue he quoted from the Thisday Interview published February 5, 2017
Following the suggestion that the infamous Kendall Commercial was made by an in-house creative team, “I maintained a position that agencies cannot become manufacturers of the consumable products that the client produces, similarly, some clients have shown that they are not also good at marketing communications. Therefore, it is proper to give room for specialisation – let the agencies focus on marketing communications – creating branding and communication for clients’ products and services, while the client focuses on producing good quality products. It is better to keep these two separate”.
According to Babaeko, clients who fail to keep them separate, experience tells us that they are not any better than the counterparts who have the good sense to employ top-notch agencies, he reiterated.
The controversial ad shows Jenner, the 21-year-old supermodel, participating in a photo shoot and then joining up with protesters and approaching a cop with a can of Pepsi soda.
“To put Kendall Jenner in a protest simulating a Black Lives Movement iconic movement, it’s comical almost,” said Jackson.
Jonah Berger, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School said Pepsi missed it adding that that’s the result of “playing with fire”.
As a No.2 in the carbonated soft drink market, the company saw the ad “as a chance to be a little edgy and relevant by associating the brand with current events by trying to skew themselves to a younger demographic so they are willing to be a little more risky and edgy.”
Flash back to the 80s, Pepsi had achieved success in marketing by using campaigns built around artists like Madonna and Michael Jackson. These iconic stars were casted hinged on “social currency, relevancy and pop culture”. The results were phenomenal.
Having lost the money and the voice at least for now, the brand owners has to sit back and restrategise the way forward. It’s not only about feeling good and joining street processions.
With agency reports courtesy CNBC, Adage