Pepsi was forced to pull its new video ad featuring Kendall Jenner on Wednesday following hordes of complaints about how it evoked imagery of the Black Lives Matter movement. The spot was created by an in-house agency, and experts have claimed that the debacle highlights the importance of seeking outside assistance with creative.
Pepsi said that the ad demonstrated a “progressive approach to truly reflect today’s generation” when it launched the spot, which was created by in-house team Creators League Studio. However, after a particularly negative reaction across social media and mocking commentary from Martin Luther King’s daughter Bernice, Pepsi pulled the ad and apologised.
“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding,” the beverage giant said in a statement. “Clearly, we missed the mark, and we apologise. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are removing the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologise for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”
Lucky Generals founding partner Andy Nairn believes that the fallout underlines how digital agencies can bring a much-needed outside perspective to content marketing campaigns, while Columbia Business School’s Centre on Global Brand Leadership Director, Matthew Quint, said that the ad should serve as a case study for the debate about balancing the use of in-house and third-party influences to deliver engaging content.
“Brands often suffer from myopia when trying to articulate their own value to the marketplace,” Jason Snyder, CTO for brand agency Momentum Worldwide, said. “I like to think of a brand as a metaphor for a story. Being the story and telling the story at the same time is rarely a successful combination. A good agency will provide objective examination, done with real rigor, of how, where, why and when to tell a brand story. And that is a very valuable thing.”
Suzanne Pope, a copywriter for the blog Ad Teachings, echoed these sentiments and said that the Pepsi commercial “illustrates the dangers” of in-house creative, as there are people capable of doing the work but not speaking up to highlight mistakes and other faux pas. Pepsi saw its social mentions rise by almost 7,500 per cent between Monday and Tuesday following the launch of the ad.