Tag Archives: Pepsi

I’m sorry, I fell for it too: Heineken fooled me. I now regret writing the “Pepsi, this is how it’s done” post

Last week I blogged about Heineken’s new ad ‘Worlds Apart’Pepsi, this is how it’s done. Heineken: Worlds Apart | #OpenYourWorld. At the time, I thought I was giving a fairly neutral opinion whilst swaying towards positive connotations towards the ad – I even suggested, like many others, that it was the antidote to Pepsi’s car-crash ad.
I want to sincerely apologise for my ignorance. As someone who is so outspoken against the immoral bullsh*t we all have to endure in this post-Trump hellhole, I have failed both you and me. In hindsight, and after reading more articles, I realised that I had fallen for the worst kind of marketing tactic. I’m embarrassed that someone who both works in advertising and is a human rights activist was able to have the wool pulled over my eyes – ethical consumption simply cannot exist in a marketed, profit-based environment no matter how many frills are added.

Aside from the blatant social change push as a tactic to sell beer, just like the Pepsi advert it is a reductive narrative that absolutely does not represent the way in which opposing opinions are resolved in real life. Furthermore, the narrative suggests that the opinions of the couples are on the same level, whereas misogyny, transphobia and climate change denial are entirely of a regressive ideology. I now see that these opinions placed alongside a progressive and moral ideology totally diminish the science and facts behind these important views. What our society struggles to understand is that there is a difference between having an opinion and believing something that is entirely morally wrong – denying climate change is wrong because climate change is real. What damages our society is the notion that social problems can be resolved if only people tolerate their oppression just a bit longer. That ideology is fundamentally everything I am against and the catalyst to my passionate drive for equality, yet I foolishly supported this tragic advert.

This ad doesn’t exist to solve the world’s problems, but to make you buy a product by causing you to associate whatever warm fuzzies it elicits in you with its particular brand of carbonated yeast water. Have you learned nothing from Mad Men? That this ad was deemed “good” by most people just means it does a better job than other ads of hiding that fact. – The Guardian

I also questioned my naivety surrounding the morality of Heineken regarding what they have done as a brand to support the social issues focused on in ‘Worlds Apart’ – do they support LGBT charities, climate change research or womens’ rights organisations? As someone who dedicates a lot of time deciding whether or not to spend my hard earned money on certain brands (particularly regarding animal cruelty and brands who fund that in China), I am disappointed in myself for not recognising that “Heineken is an amoral entity that treats human beings as expendable assets who exist purely to have their labor power exploited for the purposes of enriching its shareholders” (The Guardian). If I discovered that politically and socially, Heineken invested in, say, supporting the trans* community, I wouldn’t write this article. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case, and thes people who feature as progressive and outspoken are merely used as puppets.

What gets me more than anything, and what makes me feel ashamed for believing this sh*t is the fact that the people being attacked did not retaliate. At no point did those offended confront the ignorant person, despite claiming to be outspoken and sure of their moral place in this world. Whenever I feel offended or concerned about someone’s moral compass, I do not hesitate – I refuse to tolerate their ignorance – I cannot validate a point of view that ignores fact.
I cannot believe for a moment that the Black woman wearing a t-shirt saying “Smash the Patriarchy” would sit in silence whilst listening to a white, cis man project his degenerative views. Finding common-ground is of course not out of the question, but to insinuate that bigotry can be laughed off with a beer and a splash of tolerance sums up exactly what is wrong with humanity. The irony here is that Heineken used social problems that has largely eschewed capitalism to structure an advert.

Originally, I admittedly found it bizarre and almost insulting that the denial of a scientific fact was placed amongst transphobia and sexism. Now, I find it even more infuriating that this advert essentially promotes misandry as just a point of view that can be ignored. Being offended by feminism and trans* people is impossible – what is the alternative opinion to being transgender? There isn’t one. Heineken have essentially given a bigot a platform to say “hey, I don’t like this but I’ll use the correct pronouns because you don’t have a deep voice and I can’t see your five o’clock shadow, so you’re pretty passable, and that makes me feel more comfortable”.
The facts are here: climate change is real, women are paid less and trans* murders are an epidemic. There is no opinion here. There is no opposing view.

Yes, the people with the regressive ideas are humans, and they should be treated as such. They should not, however, be given an equal platform upon which to spew their ignorance. The false equivalency itself is whitewashing. (Caitlin Bladt)

If you don’t respect Nazis, you shouldn’t respect people who fundamentally believe someone’s identity and personhood is wrong. They are the same ideologies, but for some reason we seem to brush that under the carpet. And a beer certainly will not change that.

Once more, I’m sorry, and I do not support the Heineken advert.

P.S. Please also note that all the “right wing” opinions are from white, cis men. Just saying.
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Pepsi, this is how it’s done. Heineken: Worlds Apart | #OpenYourWorld

Remember the best April Fools joke of all time (aka Pepsi’s car-crash ad featuring Kendall Jeanner)? Well, it seems Heineken has taken on the concept of ‘peacemaking via the sharing a drink’ in their new ad “Worlds Apart”.
The spot features sets of people who have opposing views on feminism, climate change and gender. They are tasked with a team building construction project, then shown their VT tapes (which reveal their opinions) and consequently asked if they wish to stay for a beer or leave. Whilst I have my doubts about the authenticity whenever brands use social and political discussions in ad concepts, I think Heineken pulls this off nicely. Pepsi should take note.

At the end of the ad, I found myself smiling about the fact that the transphobic man used the correct pronouns for the trans* woman: “I’d have to tell my girlfriend that I’ll be texting another girl. She might be a bit upset with that, but I’ll have to get around that one.”

What makes this work 10 million times better than the Pepsi ad? Well, agency Publicis London targeted a post-Brexit UK (like Pepsi tried and failed to do in a post-Trump world) by including discussion and conversation within the ad, rather than attempting to create a satire-style video with white-washing for ‘the resistance’. The suggestion that a beverage can heal a very divided society is a strong and fragile statement, and whilst I have my doubts about the intentions of brands who go down this route, this is the perfect counteragent for our Pepsi wounds.

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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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