Update: An AP article on the above ad notes that this isn’t the first time in recent memory that Mountain Dew has been criticized for an offensive ad campaign:
Mountain Dew also was criticized recently because of its endorsement deal with Lil Wayne, whose rap lyrics compared a rough sex act to the tortuous death of Emmett Till, a black teen who was murdered in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman. And last month, Reebok also ended its relationship with Rick Ross after he rapped about giving a woman a drug to have his way with her. Women’s groups and rape victims issued petitions in protest.
“For brands that are going after a young demographic, they’re always walking that fine line between getting in trouble and appealing to their audience,” said Laura Ries, president of Ries & Ries, a marketing firm based in Atlanta.
If PepsiCo had created an ad for Mountain Dew, Ries said it might not have been considered edgy or cool. But by handing over control to a celebrity, she said the company ran the risk of having an ad that wasn’t appropriate.
PepsiCo Inc., based in Purchase, N.Y., apologized in a statement and said it understood how the ad could be offensive.
By the way, to understand what sort of corporate culture would produce such ads, it’s worth noting that the CEO of PepsiCo is Indra Nooyi, who in 2005 told the graduating class of Columbia Business School:
This analogy of the five fingers as the five major continents leaves the long, middle finger for North America, and, in particular, The United States. As the longest of the fingers, it really stands out. The middle finger anchors every function that the hand performs and is the key to all of the fingers working together efficiently and effectively. This is a really good thing, and has given the U.S. a leg-up in global business since the end of World War I.
When called on the notion that she was effectively flipping America the bird by Power Line’s Scott Johnson in article at the Weekly Standard, Pepsi and Nooyi attempted to play the victim — you’re misconstruing Nooyi’s perfectly benign remarks! — but eventually Nooyi relented:
Following my remarks to the graduating class of Columbia University’s Business School in New York City, I have come to realize that my words and examples about America unintentionally depicted our country negatively and hurt people.I appreciate the honest comments that have been shared with me since then, and am deeply sorry for offending anyone. I love America unshakably–without hesitation–and am extremely grateful for the opportunities and support our great nation has always provided me.
Over the years I’ve witnessed and advised others how a thoughtless gesture or comment can hurt good, caring people. Regrettably, I’ve proven my own point. Please accept my sincere apologies.
Perhaps she should keep that last paragraph on a macro; it might come in handy this week.