Category Archives: branding

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:

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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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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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D&AD Identity 2017: The Beautiful Meme

Agency ‘The Beautiful Meme’ have been commissioned by D&AD again to design the creative for the 2017 D&AD Festival. The iconic D&AD Pencils have been animated alongside textures, designed to individually represent the award levels or categories from the D&AD Professional Awards.

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Ben Haworth, Creative Director says:

In advertising and design the D&AD pencil, the symbol of excellence, is ever-present. Around it the industry is weft and warp and flux. Nothing stays still and that’s as it should be. That’s what this year’s identity is about.

This amalgamation of 3D, geometry and motion design is proving to be a very popular design trend, and this has to be my favourite identity for D&AD to date. I particularly love the black Pencil above as it’s using just one colour (bar the yellow D&AD logo), which also happens to be my favourite colour… Also, the animation reflects the popular gif culture that has taken over the art and design world, with the designs working well as both statics and animations.

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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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Brand Identity: Kaibosh

Design agency Snask were commissioned by Norweigen eyewear company Kaibosh to create a brand identity for both their general campaign and for in-store design. Encompassing the requirements from Kaibosh, Snask created an identity using a custom typeface (Sentrum) and bold icons for a colourful, fashionable and expressive rebrand.

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I love this! “Eyes before guys” ha!

The brand and tonality was translated into visual form and matched with a custom-made display typeface, named Sentrum, made to suit the in-store signage. We added two eyelashes as a symbol to distinguish the identity and to use as graphic elements for many different scenarios. We created the entire flagship store with shelving systems, signage, colours, murals, etc. The project ranged from a typeface and still life photos to campaigns, fashion photography, notebooks and towels.

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No Tax on Tampons: A Design Solution

Pentagram’s Paula Scher has designed an identity to undo stigma around womens’ periods, creating the visual identity for a new organisation which aims to get rid of the ‘tampon tax’ in certain states in the US. A petition has 60k+ supporters wanting to follow in Canada’s steps by eliminating tax on period items as “women spend upwards of $70 a year on sanitary products like tampons and pads”. The same uproar surrounding tampons and pads has been protested by Brits and Aussies too.
Euromonitor released findings that “sanitary protection reached current value sales of US$3.1 billion in 2015, up by 1%. Retail volume sales remained stable with 1% growth”. That is insane!

Paula teamed up with the non-profit organisation Period Equity to create the identity, which includes the perfect sans-serif font ‘Margaret Calvert’s New Rail Alphabet’ and self-explanatory, bold red dots.

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Gender Stereotypes and Children: Stop Gendering Toys!

It’s like something from my childhood imagination! Created by Proximity BCN with production by Post23 for Christmas last year, this ad for Audi Spain goes way beyond a whimsical animation. At first glimpse, one would assume this is an advert for a toy store in Spain.
The animation is an attempt raise awareness regarding gender-specific toys – an important message that plenty of other kids brands have attempted to explore. The campaign was accompanied the hashtag #CambiemosElJuego (“Let’s change the game”) to start a discussion about the topic online.

Eva Santos, Creative Director at Proximity says:

There is a growing trend for brands to communicate what they are all about and how they intend to improve people’s lives.

So, this is an experiment rather than Proximitie’s beliefs?… Weird statement. Anyway, Audi Spain rep Ignacio Gonzalez sums up the idea more eloquently:

“The Doll That Chose to Drive” is the brand’s way of helping to promote a more egalitarian social model … starting with boys and girls, tomorrow’s drivers.

This topic is something I’ve explored a lot (especially at university) – the gendering of children’s toys being limiting, and frankly archaic. Smyths Toy Superstore followed the genderless toys notion, featuring a cartoon boy in princess fancy dress (although the ad is pretty crappy itself):

Smyths were highly praised for the ‘If I Were A Toy’ advert for breaking gender stereotypes, but this wasn’t the first time a kids’ ad had the support of gender-variant consumers – Barbie released a Moschino Barbie (costing $150…. what-the-f!) in 2015, alongside an advert for Mattel featuring an adorable boy. For the first time ever, a boy was been featured in a Barbie commercial:

The list could go on! More and more, I’m seeing both girls and boys sharing their toys and blurring the gender lines in adverts, ignoring gendered products forced upon them by society’s notion of gender. It’s a very bizarre concept considering consumerism and mass-consumption of gendered products are entirely created by social constructs! The strict divide in gender when it comes to children is something adopted by familiarity – they don’t come out wearing gendered clothes, asking for a pretty pink pony.

Here’s an image by one of my favourites, Barbara Kruger, which is think is very apt for this topic:

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