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Ed Driscoll

What on Earth was Mountain Dew Thinking?

May 2nd, 2013 - 12:30 am

Just when you think pop culture can’t descend any lower.

I’m guessing Don Draper would not have approved the above ad, even after the heaviest of all-nighter Seagram V.O. benders with Roger Sterling. Here’s James Lileks’ take, beginning with a link to a New York Post article on the commercial, the very definition of ill-conceived:

What is wrong with these people?

PepsiCo is once again learning the risks of celebrity partnerships after an ad for Mountain Dew was criticized for portraying racial stereotypes and making light of violence toward women. The soda and snack food company said it immediately pulled the 60-second spot after learning that people found it was offensive.

The ad was part of a series developed by African-American rapper Tyler, The Creator, and depicted a battered white woman on crutches being urged to identify a suspect out of a lineup of black men.

“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.

Oh, such a fine line.

* * * * *

If it had won awards and impressed many people with its “edgy” humor, they’d be proud to let you embed it. By all means! Yes, enjoy our sharp, brave ads – we’re always pushing the envelope, and you can help!

But they misjudged it, somehow. Really? How? Did they think the source of the idea innoculated them?

I wonder if anyone lost their job over this.

Yes, the liberal postwar overculture of the 1950s through the mid-1960s was “plastic,” as The Graduate claimed. Yes it was full of “phonies” and hypocrites as Holden C. warned. On the other hand, it had enough common sense — read, good taste — to instinctively reject a commercial such as this. Not only would it never have been aired, it would have never left the ad agency’s presentation boardroom.

But even if the above commercial wasn’t pulled by Mountain Dew — or, more conspiratorially, wasn’t designed to be deliberately banned to create that all-important “edgy” “buzz” — epater those bourgeois with that nostalgie de la boue! — what fine associations to make with your product.

However, Lileks couldn’t be more in error, when he writes, don’t bother looking for the ad on the Internet:

Pepsi went through the web and made sure it went down the memory hole. The ad no longer exists. The ad never existed. Those of us who saw it when it was permitted to be seen will be dragged screaming off to the loony bin. But it was real! There were fat white men and a line-up of frightening racial archetypes! And a talking goat! Uh huh.

Actually, the ad is all over the place. I found a copy on an Australian video aggregation Website; veteran blogger Pat Dollard has a copy; we have one above; and no doubt, so do countless others. So from that perspective, Mission Accomplished, right, Pepsi? The left-leaning Mediaite Website has a copy as well, embedded in a post titled, “Watch The Mountain Dew Ad Pulled After Critics Called It ‘Arguably The Most Racist Commercial In History.’”

But given how the left thoroughly maxed out the R-word beginning in 2008, what difference does it make to PepsiCo, to paraphrase a recent former secretary of State?

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.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
"“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,”"

So. . . rape, domestic abuse and drugging women is what appeals to the young demographic these days? Good Lord we are in serious trouble.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Not a bad representation of modern American black (sic) culture. If you cannot admit the problem, you cannot solve it.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Lots of folks in marketing are quite young. Too many have no moral foundation. You would think, at least, that there would be some adults in charge of these children, but advertising is a pretty amoral business anyway.

If I owned the company, I would fire almost everyone involved. "Shoot a few, as a lesson to the rest."
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (47)
All Comments   (47)
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Dare I say it...To all appearances, Pepsi got somebody's goat!
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't think Pepsi made a mistake. Pepsi is always at the forefront of corporate sponsors of the 'new world order' --whatever that is. I noticed it maybe ten years ago, when the Mexican seperatist movement 'La Raz' (in the dark days before Obama sanitized its image) was staging events in nearby San Antonio, sponsored by Pepsi, GE, and some others of the globalist ilk.

The company is less a product with an advertising campaign, and more a subliminal message subversion campaign with a soft drink product front.

"Oh sure," you might say, "I can just SEE a board of directors that would engage such a sinister corporate effort, especially against its own interests", and i agree, it's pretty far-fetched. But there's a lot of search out there, take a look.

Meanwhile, this may be the goat. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1KZe7S1a3o]
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hmm, hyperlink fail --try this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1KZe7S1a3o
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
I may have seen a more offensive ad in my life, but if so, I can't remember it. I didn't drink their product before, so I can't give it up in protest. Actually, I quit drinking any Pepsico product years ago when their chairwoman (Indian lady, I think) said something incredibly offensive about Americans and American culture. In retrospect, maybe she was right all along . . .
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
What happened was the ad agency was afraid to say no to a cool guy from a privileged category. Look what happened to Howie Kurtz when he doubted Jason Collins!
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Maybe I'm in favor of a soda ban after all. smh
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Oh, give it a couple of years. This sort of thing will go unnoticed, nothing out of the ordinary. I bet in a few years we will be reading how this was a ground breaking ad, too ahead of the public's consciousnesses.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Seems like there's a lot of "mistakes" like this getting on the air these days. I'm old enough to remember when Mountain Dew was first introduced. Their slogan back then was, "It wiill tickle yer innards."
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't think it was a "mistake" at all. It garnered a heck of a lot of media and commentary. If people hear about it and want to see it, it's available. I thought it was funny "Beyonte"? Really?
I'll bet there are still a lot of people who saw it when it aired that are saying WTF?
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
You would think Pepsico would have learned something from their embarrassing "partnership" with Madonna. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Glad I said goodbye to my tv long ago
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
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