When creating a YouTube ad campaign a viral result is exactly what you want- and within 24 hours the Pepsi campaign ‘Live For Now’ certainly did go viral. It was first uploaded to the extremely popular social media platform, YouTube on Pepsi’s channel for their consumers to watch and view, and due to the platforms easy share-ability (Cassidy, 2017c), it was in conversations across the world in just a few hours. Pepsi, known for its fizzy drinks and red white and blue American symbolisation, was making headlines around the world! However, it was not in a good way- at all.
If you have not seen the Pepsi advertisement, then to fully understand what will be said throughout this article I recommend you watch it here. It must be said, however, that this is not the original ad that was posted by Pepsi but merely another YouTube user has downloaded it and uploaded the ad to their own account so that it can still be viewed. The reason this is not the original advertisement is that Pepsi, once the backlash was growing in a snowball effect, deleted the campaign and issued a public apology.
The ad started off with a can of Pepsi being opened and then after a while, the ad turned down to the streets where a protest formed by a diverse group of individuals, was being shown with no clear message portrayed other than ‘love’ or ‘join the conversation’. The ad has had backlash from a wide range of celebrities and people alike for making light of a very serious movement for people who are crying for their voices to be heard, i.e. making light of protests. The protest, even featured a ‘dance and music performance’ which was not well received. Click here to see a video of Celebrity tweets sparked by Kendall Jenner and the Pepsi ad.
The ad also featured popular Kardashian family member Kendall Jenner, who during the ad, was in a photo shoot that she was convinced out of by a man in the protest ushering her to join. She makes her way through the crowd to the very front- grabs a Pepsi and walks towards the line of police officers where she offers one of them a Pepsi, the police officer takes the drink and has a sip where the crowd erupted in a victory cheer. However, there was definitely no victory for Pepsi once this ad was released.
There were some key issues and factors that led to this horrifically offensive social media fail. Pepsi was trying to entertain users through being relational (Cassidy, 2017a). Now I am like every average social media user, sometimes there are those videos that tug at your heartstrings that make you want to do something, such as the Imagine the Possibilities campaign by Barbie, but Pepsi missed this mark. What a lot of advertisement campaigns don’t realise is that they still must use the rules of good marketing (Cassidy, 2017c). When looking at the campaign equation and the successful features of a campaign, creative design + technical design + user experience = campaign (Cassidy, 2017c)- Pepsi although actually had a really good technical design with the actual filming, creation and quality of the ad itself, however the creative design of the message missed the mark, along with the user experience which just left consumers angry and insulted which resulted in the failed campaign.
Another reason why the social media campaign was a fail was the fact that it was uploaded to YouTube. Now don’t get me wrong, I love ads released on YouTube however the internet being the internet, once digital footprint is there- you can’t take it back because everything done on the internet generates data (Cassidy, 2017b). For example, an activity that we completed in our tutorial was that we had five minutes to research the person sitting next to us and what we could find. A lot of the people in the class were shocked that certain photos and statuses were still online even when they had thought they deleted them. Shelley Moore (2012) states, “that once digitized, such information is virtually irretrievable” However probably the most damaging issue for their campaign was one of the last frames in the advertisements towards the end, the scene where Kendall Jenner hands the police officer a Pepsi. Now with no background information, this could be taken as a harmless ‘peace offering’ within the advertisement, however, this was not the case. Whether intentional or not, Pepsi re-created a pivotal photo within the black lives matter protest where a woman stood in front of a line of riot police, she was jailed shortly after the photo, that spun around the globe, was captured.
When I look at this ad I think of all the things I would have done differently, if I were in charge of their social media strategy, as there would have been a few things I would do. Before I begin talking about how I would have dealt with their post ad release I am going to discuss what I would have done prior to release. Firstly, a clear strategy has to be set for the ad, as every touch point has to enrich your relationship with the consumer (Cassidy, 2017c). For example, an ad strategy that would have seriously benefited Pepsi’s campaign would be initialising focus groups that would react to the advertisement or create a ‘test and learn matrix’. Just by strategising to do a focus group, this would have prepared Pepsi for potential backlash and using research and data analysis is very important within social media posting (Cassidy, 2017c).
Or if the brand were to create a test and learn matrix and have consumers choose which elicits a better response, then record results for future knowledge, this would include consumers whilst improving the chance of a successful campaign (Cassidy, 2017c). Secondly creating a response framework in advance. By creating a framework of what to do if things went south, gives the brand a stronger chance of coming out of the rough without tainting their brand image. For example, if a restaurant business were to have a response framework for any negative reviews, like possibly ‘thank them for feedback, apologise, try and make it up to angered consumers and personalise the message, then also have key stakeholders sign off on it. This gives the brand a way to survive the negative review whilst still possibly bringing the view of the brand up in the process.
If however, this campaign were released and I were in charge of the social media strategy, I would use the crisis management basis of acknowledging the fault whilst responding with complete transparency so that consumers feel they are being spoken to honestly, and I would speak specifically as to not look like I am avoiding the fault. I would repetitively be apologetic as I, as the social media strategist would, be at fault. I would then talk to the brand and set up steps to prevent future repetition, such as the afore-discussed response frameworks, research focus groups, and/or create a test and learn matrix for future campaigns.
The response that Pepsi elicited was quite good in relation to their apology, however, more transparency and specificity would have built their brand up more. It will be a long journey for Pepsi to try and un-tarnish their smeared brand. However, as much of a fail as this is, there have been worse social media fails that brands have turned around. So, good luck Pepsi, you might be needing it.
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Cassidy, E. (2017a). KCB206 Social Media Self and Society: Week 5 [PowerPoint notes]. Retrieved from https://blackboard.qut.edu.au/bbcswebdav/pid-6764602-dt-content-rid-8118700_1/courses/KCB206_17se1/KCB206%20-%20Week%205%281%29.pptx
Cassidy, E. (2017b). KCB206 Social Media Self and Society: Week 7 [PowerPoint notes]. Retrieved from https://blackboard.qut.edu.au/bbcswebdav/pid-6777601-dt-content-rid-8249098_1/courses/KCB206_17se1/KCB206%20-%20Week%207.pptx
Cassidy, E. (2017c). KCB206 Social Media Self and Society: Week 8 [PowerPoint notes]. Retrieved from https://blackboard.qut.edu.au/bbcswebdav/pid-6789699-dt-content-rid-8347265_1/courses/KCB206_17se1/KCB206%20-%20Week%208%20.pptx
Clevver News. (2017, April 5). Clevver News – Celebs REACT To Kendall Jenner’s Controversial Pepsi Commercial [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxAf8ZJvUPo&t=15s
Kendall and Kylie. (2017, April 4). Kendall and Kylie – Kendall Jenner for PEPSI Commercial [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dA5Yq1DLSmQ
Moore, S. C. (2012). Digital footprints on the internet. International Journal of Childbirth Education, 27(3), 86. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/ps/i.do?p=HRCA&u=qut&id=GALE|A302298512&v=2.1&it=r&sid=summon&authCount=1