Category Archives: advertising

Pepsi: What Were You Thinking?!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will have heard about the catastrophic backlash Pepsi has received for their new TV and digital campaign featuring TV star and model Kendall Jenner. Created by its in-house creative team, Creators League Studio, we see Jenner on a modelling shoot who joins a protest mid-shoot. What is the protest for? I have no idea. No one knows.

Creatively, the advert is crap anyway. However, in terms of a brand ambassador, Kendall is actually the perfect candidate to reflect Pepsi’s pop culture background, which has previously featured other famous faces like Michael Jackson, Britney Spears and Beyonce. They could have worked with her social media influence and her fashion background to create a successful and fun campaign, but instead created a monster that has deeply offended and shocked so many people all over the world.
So how on earth did Pepsi get it so wrong? After a lot of thought since the ad was first released, here are my theories as to how this cultural tragedy unfurled:

  1. Diversity in the workplace: clearly no one of colour had any input in the narrative of this ad. Creators League Studio evidently do not have enough people of the backgrounds that they wish to represent in this ad.
  2. Work and fear culture: how the f*ck did this get approved?! How did no one at the Studio say “wait a minute, this concept seems really contrived”? Is there a culture there that makes people feel unable to stand up for what is right and wrong? I could never sit back and be part of something that I know is fundamentally wrong for humanity.
  3. Experience: without doubt, no one working on the commercial has ever been involved in a protest, experienced inequality, racial profiling, seclusion or segregation. Despite this, even if you have never experienced these things, surely you must know about it? The internet exists. History exists. There is no excuse.

The most disturbing and spoken about part of this advert is the scene were Jenner hands a Pepsi to a police officer. Firstly, this insinuates that protest can be solved by soda, which is highly insulting (the internet has gone meme-crazy on this subject). Secondly, and most importantly, this contrived scene is clearly mirroring that of the real life hero Ieshia Evans who faced police in Baton Rouge:

2016: A Picture and its Story

Ieshia Evans was detained by law enforcement when she protested after the shooting (and death) of African American Alton Sterling near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department. Both prior to that incident and after that iconic photo was taken there have been countless protests in cities like Baltimore, Maryland, and Ferguson, Missouri that occurred due to the police killing of black men. It has become an epidemic that is impossible to avoid on the news or on social media. There is no way Pepsi haven’t seen this image or heard of the protests.
Aside from the shocking claim that a can of Pepsi will create world peace, the contrast of ‘peace givers’ (Iesha and Kendall) is beyond insulting. Kendall is a white, cis, privileged, able-bodied, rich celebrity – if Pepsi wanted to create a peace-making, hero narrative they should’ve chosen an activist or a real-life hero.

DeRay McKesson, a leading activist in the Black Lives Matter movement said:

If I had carried Pepsi, I guess I never would have gotten arrested. Who knew? Pepsi, this ad is trash.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. In a world where violence and discrimination against African Americans has by no means decreased over the last century (if anything, it is getting worse), this has to be the most offensive, tone-deaf and contrived advert created during my lifetime.
What’s equally as perverse as using a real-life protest is the bizarre use of every token minority. The ad desperately tries to feature every single age, race, religion, gender, sexuality – whilst I praise diversity and inclusion in advertising, the clear attempt to show “co-existing” makes the Muslim woman and the “token-black-dude” stand out even more. It’s like they all sat at the casting couch and tried to tick off every single stereotypical type of person they could saying “yeah, she’s ethnic enough”.

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Pepsi’s exploitative brand social activism concept has been spoken about so much that according to data from Amobee Brand Intelligence, digital content engagement around Pepsi has increased to 366% in just a day, including mentions of Black Lives Matter, the use of the phrase “tone-deaf” and tagging the ad as the “worst ever.”
An incredible amount of people have spoken out against how Pepsi have exploited the enduring suffering of marginalised people, so I have no idea how Pepsi will ever come back from this. Yesterday, they removed the ad and released this apology on their website:

PURCHASE, N.Y., April 5, 2017 “Pepsi 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.”

I’m glad they have apologised, and that the ad has been removed, but I really hope this has been a huge wakeup call for advertising and marketing. I hope Pepsi get rid of their “creatives” and use ad agencies for the future. But, will anyone want to be associated with them? I guess if the price is right…
Pepsi claim that they did not intend to refer to any particular significant issues, but the notion of a protest itself is to make a stand against a social issue. So, what social were they trying to represent? All I see is cringey peace signs and random words. Trivialising protest in an age where people are desperate to see change is an insult beyond repair, in my eyes. I’ve written about jumping on the bang-wagon when it comes to social issues (such as using LGBT characters in ad narratives), and I find myself shaking my head in shame when the scenes cut to young, attractive people blatantly drinking Pepsi (got to get in that product placement) and laughing. This itself shows how the creatives involved have clearly never been involved in anything mildly political, because no one stands around posing, giggling and pouting at a protest. We even see a fist bump. A f*cking fist bump.

Allen Adamson, founder of Brand Simple Consulting said:

It’s trivializing the seriousness of the issue, that merely a can of Pepsi could solve all of the problems on the streets of our country. To some extent, it’s polarizing to the Black Lives Matter movement because it makes it seem like much ado about nothing, if you just passed some out at your demonstrations this wouldn’t happen.

Following this, something that also concerns me is the actors in the advert. Whilst it’s evident that the creatives themselves have no sense of privilege and suffering, why did the multi-cultural cast agree to take part in this ad? Did they not know the entire concept prior to filming? Were they desperate for their next big break? Did the mention of Kendall Jenner appear too appealing to turn down? It’s the same confused, cringe-worthy feeling I had when I saw African Americans defending Trump during the election. How can anyone from a marginalised group associate themselves with this?!

I could spend all day writing about what is wrong with this advert. There is nothing right about it, and if you can’t see how much of a disaster it is, you need to educate yourself and understand your own privilege. We will never move away from segregation, racism and violence if we don’t collectively stand up for what is right. This is beyond poor creative work – it’s a enormous, humiliating and derogatory kick in the teeth.

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Leo Burnett: Samsung | Ostrich

At the end of March, ad agency Leo Burnett (Chicago) released the advert commissioned by Samsung which premiered at Unpacked‘, the launch event for the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus. 

What happens if you refuse to listen to what “can’t be done?” Samsung believes the only way to achieve the impossible is by refusing to accept anything is. #DoWhatYouCant

The idea focuses on an Ostrich’s dreams coming true after stumbling across a VR headset and experiencing flight simulation (fyi Ostriches can’t fly – they’re built for running), alongside the iconic Elton John song ‘Rocket Man’.
Leo Burnett is the talk of the advertising town with this adorable, hopeful advert. It’s definitely a hit, and I think it works even better with an Ostrich than it perhaps would with humans as the main focal point.
There’s a lot of really really awful crappy advertising at the moment, and I’m struggling to be inspired by creative TV ad concepts… but this ‘dreams come true’ concept is pure genius. If this doesn’t win an award, I’ll eat my hat!

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Best April Fools Day 2017 Pranks and Jokes in Advertising and Marketing

I’ve accumulated a collection of my top 10 favourite pranks from the creative world this year. It was hard to choose from such an array of alternative facts, that’s for sure. (I don’t think it’s a coincidence that 70% of the fake campaigns I found whilst researching for this post had something to do with dogs…)

10. Google Play for Pets:

Google has introduced a new category of games, apps and training tools to keep your pet stimulated:

Updates include:

  • New collections of games, apps and training tools your pets will love
  • 5-Paw rating system
  • Notifications when your pet has logged in
  • Multiplayer mode for nose-to-nose competition
  • Virtual Reality games to simulate real play

This fake product actually looks like something I can imagine happening in the not so distant future! I’m fairly certain I’ve already heard of apps and devices used to interact with dogs left at home all day…

 

9. Honda Blend

Honda Canada created Honda Blend, a blender for your car. It includes a blender and a refrigerated glove box to store the fruit and veg, and it even comes with an ‘exclusive cup system’.
Not so much a prank – just a fake product with funny undertones.

 

8. Google Gnome

The smart yard has finally arrived – Meet Google Gnome. See how Gnome can transform your yard.

I love this satirical take on Google Home for outside.

 

 

7. Virgin Australia Canine Crew

We are excited to unleash our new Virgin Australia Canine Crew in a world first initiative. On select flights, a Canine Crew member will work alongside our award-winning Cabin Crew team to offer a range of additional services.

This is a fake ad, but I’m going to call it a prank because Virgin are pranking all of us by creating such a wonderful and beautiful idea that’s not going to happen. Do not put this adorable idea in my head! Imagine the amount of fearful fliers who have their vertigo cured by puppy cuddles! Therapy flying.

 

6. IKEA: The Updated Småland

We’re about to transform Småland from a playground into a ‘press-play-ground’! Our studies of children’s play habits reveal that today’s kids prefer tablets to physical activity. So we’re replacing the magical forest with a haven of sitting pods with tablets—recreating the way your kids play.

The best part about this prank is the reactions on Facebook…

Leon Koh Kids should be running around giggling and playing. This pic of this beautiful gal with an expressionless face looks so scary to me as a parent

Wendy Choo This is so sad, why do the kids haf to come into IKEA just to face a tablet. Having fun is to move around exploring the surrounding and interacting with others. This is too lonely.

Leslie Lee So sad… Robot land. I thought Scandinavian education is different.

Conclusion: people are idiots and advertising works.

 

5. Hinge Parental Controls

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Dating app ‘Hinge’ introduced Parental Controls, “a dashboard in your Hinge account for your mom and dad to access.” Parents can set their preferences for your potential matches, such as choosing an occupation, timeframe for children, distance from parents, and select which holidays they’re available for visits. This genuinely sounds like something people would use.

 

4. Puppy Mudder/Tough Mudder

Introducing our newest event series, Puppy Mudder presented by Nulo. Starting in 2017, your fearless fluffy friend will be able to dominate our muddy courses across the globe. Events will feature fresh takes on classic obstacles like Barktic Enema, Electroshock Therapuppy, and more #PuppyMudder.

Yes, another dog related prank! The way this is filmed is so great, and apart from ‘Electroshock Therapuppy’ could actually be quite fun.

 

3. Pop chips: Cheddar “Cheese”

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Why go with alternative snacks when you can elect the only chip that can fix literally everything that’s wrong with snacks? People say that 11 out of 10 Russian snackers prefer this flavour because it tastes really, really, really, very good. It’s the best snack. There’s no snack that tastes better. Patriot Puffs are perfect for frequent golf trips and early morning Twitter rants, and even better if you get someone else to pay for it! Let’s make America snack again!

  •  yuge flavour!
  •  tremendous crunch!
  •  puffed with hot air
  •  45% less than promised
  •  glutton free
  •  36% of snackers approve this flavour

A prank wouldn’t be a prank without inspiration form the biggest joke of all time – Donald Trump. Even the CTA is a play on one of his most infamous comments: “grab’em by the bags! (soon)“.  Even the copy on the bag of chips itself is hilarious and mocking of Trump.

 

2. NanoDrop (SodaStream)

THE GREATEST INVENTION SINCE DRINKING! NanoDrop is a revolutionary product which ensures a dramatic decrease in your carbon footprint while increasing your hydration levels. keeping you fresh, cool and so hot all at the same time! If style and responsibility ever hooked up, NanoDrop would be their baby.

You have to check out their website – the amount of effort put into this fake ad is incredible. God knows how much it cost to hire Paris Hilton as their fake celebrity endorser and inventor, but her satirical acting puts the cherry on top! This isn’t the first SodaStream ad I’ve appreciated – they have some fantastic creatives working on their ads.

1. PornHub shares your videos

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PornHub users that click a video receive a pop up that thanks them for sharing their porn viewing habits on social media.
This may not have as much pandemonium and creative output as some of the others, but PornHub 100% have to claim the top spot by creating the scariest, creepiest prank of all time. I bet heart rates were sky high that day! Muahahaha

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#FreeTheFeed: Mother London

Ad Agency Mother created a Mother’s Day project for the UK’s holiday (Sunday 26th March), to make a statement against the judgement placed upon mothers who breast feed in public:

A celebration of every woman’s right to decide how and where they feed their children without feeling guilty or embarrassed about their parenting choices.

So, Mother created a giant inflatable breast and placed it on top of a building in Shoreditch on Sunday. The very detailed and very large breast boldly designed by the creative team aims to spark conversation about the attitudes towards the most natural form of feeding. Alongside the outdoor installation, Mother created a series of posters displaying the hashtag “#FreeTheFeed” and the reasons behind the project.

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I’ve always found it bizarre how people are happy to drink milk from a cow, but heaven forbid another human! This is a fantastic in-your-face, no-f*cks-given approach to a campaign, showing that social design is what we need to ignite conversations about outdated stigmas.

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Grey becomes Valenstein & Fatt

In 1917 anti-semitism was rife – having a Jewish name would do you no favours in a predominantly white, male industry like advertising. In New York, Jewish entrepreneurs Lawrence Valenstein and Arthur Fatt, set up a company called ‘Grey’ which is now one of the largest advertising networks in the world. However, they didn’t name the agency after themselves like others did, and it’s been debated whether or not Grey would have been as successful with the name ‘Valenstein & Fatt’. As sad and unfair as this seems, xenophobia was the norm, and many Jewish people around the world hid their surnames in an attempt to “fit in” with society, along with other minorities who have done the same.

Unfortunately, it seems as if this attitude towards cultural, religious and racial differences has in fact not evolved as much as you’d expect over the last 100 years – the recent election of the US President is a prime example of how common xenophobia still is, worldwide:

Fast forward to 2017: Everything has changed, and yet nothing has changed.
Too much in this world is still ugly. We know that the more diverse we are, the more powerful our ideas will be. So we will continue to celebrate difference. To break down barriers to progress and opportunity. We believe that everyone has the right to put their name above their door. Whoever you are, wherever you come from. We are Open.

Along with a prejudiced President in the USA, here in the UK ‘Article 50’ is being triggered this week, creating a final divide between the UK and Europe. With these events in mind, Grey is communicating a message of diversity and inclusion by recognising their Jewish founders, whilst hoping to create a conversation about diversity in advertising.
Unfortunately the name change will only be for 100 days, which is a shame, and almost makes this campaign seem like a bit of a gimmick… Although they claim the name change is “a mark of how far we’ve come, but how much there is still left to do”, I can’t help but feel as if it’s just a marketing ploy without any actual lasting impact or strong, dedicated message if they’re just going to change the name back.

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Valenstein & Fatt have written a manifesto about how they will lead by example:

1) We are publishing our diversity data. Progress cannot be made without clear measures and transparency about who we are today. Our new study is independent and in depth and is based on the voluntary responses of 305 individuals, which represents over 60% of the agency and reported according to standards set by the British Office of National Statistics (ONS). Research developed in partnership with PSB examines roots, identity, education and lifestyle. It will be measured and shared annually and we are encouraging other agencies to take it up as their methodology.

2) We are launching a cross industry taskforce to identify the barriers to recruitment and retention of talent among ethnic minorities. The first gathering will be chaired by CEO Leo Rayman, and we are inviting leading organisations in this space and the most progressive agencies, including Chairwoman of Mediacom, Karen Blackett, to join us in agreeing industry-wide initiatives and targets. We will also commit to targets for our advertising output, to ensure that it is nationally representative. 

3) We are launching the Valenstein & Fatt Bursary to pay a year’s rent for up to two young people from ethnic minority and disadvantaged backgrounds. To qualify, candidates must have been offered a job at Grey, be state educated and live outside of Greater London. Applications are open from this summer.

4) We will inspire the next generation, by working with 100 primary and secondary schools to introduce students to a career in the creative industries. Working with Exec Head Michelle Williams and education therapist Jodie Cariss and starting with the New Wave Federation primary schools in London’s Hackney, we will offer a tailor made programme for the schools involved, from assemblies to full day workshops, coaching and agency open days.

5) We will develop our diverse talent. Recognising that recruiting people with different start points isn’t enough, 50 individuals identified as ones to watch will be matched and formally mentored by our Executive and senior leadership. In parallel we will run Community mentoring workshops open to any member of the agency who wants to participate.

That’s all fantastic, and it’s lovely to see such an influential agency speak out against prejudice, but I don’t believe they should have done this without 100% committing to a permanent name change. What’s the point otherwise?

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Guinness (St Patrick’s Day): Iris & mcbess

St Patrick’s Day (Friday March 17th) is just around the corner, so ad agency Iris have teamed up with esteemed artist and illustrator mcbess to create a series of illustrations for their client Guinness.

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Featuring the line “Let’s Get Together”, mcbess has created characters enjoying the iconic drink, surrounded by numerous recognisable previous brand references such as the toucan (below), surfers and ‘sapeurs’ (AMV BBDO).

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Although mcbess is a hugely talented artist, and a favourite of mine, I can’t see past the TfL ads which have dominated the London Underground and therefore remained associated to TfL in my mind:

However, it’s certainly proved beneficial for mcbess that his work is instantly recognisable, due to the monochrome and complicated personal style, which has caught the attention of other brads like Nike, Converse and Jack Daniels.

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Candid Conversations: Being Black in Advertising

Advertising agency TBWA launched a cultural editorial series called ‘Backslash’ last year, curated by 200 creators from across the global network. TBWA describes Backslash as “your daily edit of cultural trends”, and all of their employees receive a daily two-minute video about a range of topics, e.g. VR in medicine and science, social media’s responsibility of their users’ mental health, drone taxis, kids and technology… the list is lengthy and diverse. The project was created with just an Instagram account and internal content for employees, but TBWA believe that the team has expanded so quickly that they are hoping to create more publicly distributed content in the future, like the one above.

Richard Stainer, chief executive of TBWA\London said:

Creating at the speed of culture requires a deep knowledge of culture, and this is what Backslash gives us. It turns TBWA into a global knowledge and creativity network.

Diversity in advertising has been an enormous topic of discussion recently, and many agencies have explored this dialogue through different projects. TBWA’s Backslash looks at black professionals working in the ad industry in the short film above, featuring employees from the Omnicom network.

Nick Barham, TBWA Worldwide chief strategy officer said:

We felt that, for Black History Month, it was important to think about African American culture as it relates to advertising. I don’t think change is happening as quickly as it should. We want to represent what people are listening to, what they’re interested in and what brands care about.

As someone who is very switched on and actively interested in diversity in all aspects of life, I surprised myself with how little I had considered the lack of black creatives in advertising. The conversations in this short film about diversity are absolutely evident and relevant. Hopefully those who had never considered the lack of black talent in advertising think differently about the way agencies embrace inclusion.
It’s important that agencies consider and discuss diversity in the workplace, rather than those who feel like the minority discussing amongst themselves. Creating content for purposes other than client projects is a great way to start a conversation about race, as it becomes more human and less like a storyline created to jump on the equality bandwagon.

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ANZ: #HoldTight

In the lead up to the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and Auckland Pride Festival, ANZ bank have released a campaign specifically focusing on LGBTQI couples and their reluctance to hold hands in public. Agencies TBWA Melbourne and TBWA Auckland aimed to highlight this problem and encourage people across New Zealand and Australia, and beyond, to show their support.
The campaign is based on research commissioned by ANZ which discovered that members of the LGBTIQ community were three times more likely (39%) to feel uncomfortable holding hands in public. In Australia, they are more than twice as likely (52%) than non-LGBTI (14%) to have felt uncomfortable performing the most basic gesture of love: holding hands in public. Also, while the vast majority of New Zealanders (95%) agree that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, should feel comfortable holding hands in public, less than half of the LGBTI community (39%) truly feel comfortable doing so. Similarly, in Australia, 94% of people support everyone feeling comfortable with this show of affection, but only (43%) actually say they feel very comfortable. What a sad reality, and something we all definitely take for granted.

As part of a broader social campaign, in collaboration with Twitter, a custom emoji was developed alongside the hashtag #HoldTight. The campaign launched the ad (above) accompanied by stories told by ANZ staff:

Additionally, they also developed a limited edition custom wristband (featuring the same heart-shaped emoji hands), which will light up when people hold hands. The wristbands will be worn by attendees at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and Auckland Pride Festival:

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Carolyn Bendall, head of marketing at ANZ said:

ANZ is using #HoldTight as a platform to share an important message about diversity, inclusion and respect and to help people understand the challenges that many members of the LGBTIQ community face. We hope to make a difference by encouraging the wider public to join in the conversation and show their support.

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Four Years: It’s A 10 Hair Care

There was so much shade at the Super Bowl! The line “America, we’re in for at least 4 years of awful hair. So it’s up to you to do your part by making up for it with great hair” takes a hilarious dig and the President’s bizarre quiff. Created by Havas Edge for It’s A 10 Hair Care (weird name by the way…).

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Audi: Drive Progress

Progress is in every decision we make, every technology we invent, every vehicle we build. It’s our past, our future, our reason to exist. Audi of America is committed to equal pay for equal work. A 2016 report by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee found that women were paid 21% less than men on average.*

Audi is know for its storytelling adds, and this Super Bowl ad by Venables Bell & Partners didn’t disappoint. It’s always interesting when a brand takes a political stance, especially when it’s hard to work out whether the message is genuine or just jumping on the back on a current political issue. I like it, and I think it’s important for brands to make their political views public, so that the consumers know what they are putting their money towards.

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