By now you’ve probably seen the Pepsi Kendall Jenner ad, probably the worst advert I’ve ever seen. It’s so bad I honestly thought it was a spoof. Especially when I saw a protest sign saying “Join the conversation”. There are lots of great and entertaining articles out there pointing out the flaws, but as marketers what can we learn from it?
1- Have a good clear brief and work to it.
I guarantee that this isn’t the ad Pepsi set out to make. More work at the brief stage before even having any creative ideas would have really taken into account the audience and what they care about. Not just “protests and famous people”.  Then someone needed to have the brief ready with them and ask “Does this serve the brief? Does this sound authentic?” Without a good brief, being worked to, you’ll end up with a bad ad. Crap in, crap out.
2- If you see something. Say something. 
This ad wasn’t made by 1 person working on their own. 100s of people worked on this ad. I can’t believe that everyone at every level thought that this was a good idea. I’ve written before about the need for us all to be brand managers – each of us needing to take responsibility for the brand we work for. That means if we see something that we don’t feel best reflects our brand values – meaning if we see substandard or misguided work –  being empowered to say so. It’s important to not put all decisions in the hands of one person but to have a group of people who may disagree to approve ideas and directions.
3- In house agencies have to be accountable.
The spot was created by Pepsi’s in house agency Creators League. I don’t know the set up at Pepsi, if Creators League have ultimate sign off, but any in house creative team have to be accountable to the same stakeholders that an external agency would be subjected to. Let’s say it again, we are all brand managers.
4- Your audience will call you on your bullshit. 
In 2017 we will get instant feedback. If you say something inauthentic, if you misappropriate an actual issue and in doing so trivialize it your audience will be quick to point this out. You will be ridiculed far and wide. In his article Eric Thomas talks about millennials having “hyper-advanced BS detectors” – but actually we all do – it just millennials are more likely to call you on it.
5- Swift action can limit damage.
Pepsi pulled the ad the next day. They issued a press release taking all the blame and even apologizing for putting Kendall Jenner in that position. They were widely praised for this swift action. They’ve lost the cost of the ad and some credibility but ultimately I suspect their quick accountability will limit the damage.

What else can we learn from Pepsi? Let me know in the comments below.

Published by Ben Melton

Brand manager. Explorer. Pizza eater.

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