What Marketers Can Learn from Soda Jerks
Remember how mortified you were when your dad turned his baseball cap backwards, crouched awkwardly, manipulated his “digits” into what were definitely not gang signs and began to rap about the “fresh” tires on his Honda?
Neither do I.
But if I did, that mortification would pale in comparison to what I felt upon my first screening of “Soda Saves the World,” also known as “Live For Now Moments” or “that crazy Pepsi ad.”
We’ve all seen it by now; the controversial 2:40 how-to film about staging beautiful protests and crowning unlikely social-issue heroes. After intense social and traditional media backlash, Pepsi pulled the ad.
“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding,” the company said in a statement. “Clearly, we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.” (BTW, why are they apologizing to Jenner, who [probably] read the script before shooting and took home a few bags of cash for her “efforts”?)
The commercial mortifies me mostly because I work in the industry that thought this was a good concept and an effective ad. I am horrified that it even exists. The sheer number of approvals that exists when a large company like Pepsi attempts to do anything creative is mind-boggling. These things go through hundreds of edits and rewrites and reshoots, are vetted by dozens of lawyers and are signed off on by scores of different departments. No one – at any point – popped his or her head up to say that the whole thing felt a little “off”?
The ad has been described as insulting, trivializing, clumsy, inauthentic, cloying, racist, culturally insensitive and cringeworthy. Depending upon your perspective, any or all of these can be true. I think it fails because, in its effort to really “say something” with sensitivity, the spot ultimately fails to reference anything in particular. I personally am most appalled by its implicit statement about the out-of-touch media and the people who make marketing.
All that being said, the ad is hilarious. The commercial is so tone deaf in places that one can only laugh at the brand’s absurd and sanitized and disconnected take on “cool.” Marketers should save this ad and use it as a don’t-let-this-happen-to-you lesson when the brief calls for “cool and hip.”
To help with that, following is my inner dialogue that took place during “Live For Now Moments”:
- Is rooftop cello-ing a thing? Seems it would be windy. And lonely. Hello, lonely Cello Dude.
- Kendall is modeling in a doorway, making it look really hard. And is her dress made out of millions of safety pins?
- An artist in a hijab is artistically doing art. She seems frustrated. Or maybe thirsty?
- Cello Dude, now part of a mysterious protest, passes by and gives Kendall a “Hey, Baby, join this vague revolution” eye roll. Why does he still have the cello? Aren’t those things heavy? Why would you lug a cello to a protest? Maybe it’s a protest against cello abusers?
- Look at the pretty, pretty people carrying pretty, pretty, protest signs in Pepsi brand colors. “Join the conversation,” encourages one neatly painted placard. Um. OK. But what are we talking about?
- Kendall notices the crowd again, and, inspired by those powerful signs, decides to join the protest. (March? Parade? Fun-run?)
- She is so moved that she rips off her fake, capitalistic blonde wig – and throws it at the nearest black chick.
- Under the wig is an identical haircut, but brown, because everyone knows brown hair is more serious and appropriate for a protest. She defiantly rubs her lipstick (called Establishment Purple) off her mouth. Kendall is getting very worked up over this cause. Whatever it is.
- Hey, who brought a tub of assorted delicious, icy-cold, immensely photographable Pepsi products to the protest? Yay!
- Artist in hijab gets more frustrated in her solitary art making. She crumbles up some art papers.
- Kendall fist bumps some guy with her Pepsi hand. She is so cool, isn’t she?
- Hello, again, artist in hijab. It seems like you heard the protest, realized the power of working collaboratively, and brought your camera down to artistically document the protest-like goings-on. Have a Pepsi while you’re here. Making change happen is thirsty work!
- Kendall is inspired. She knows what to do as the tensions continue to remain low. She grabs a can of sweet, sweet Pepsi and hands it to a handsome cop-like guy. He sips. He smiles.
- Yay! Protest wins!
- Why would anyone think that “Live for Now” would be a good slogan for a soda campaign (badly) riffing on social unrest? Somebody get that guy a Pepsi! And a new job.