Calling bullshit on Pepsi

You may have seen stuff on other blogs about the recent supposed Pepsi ad, depicting an unconscious ‘hawt’ woman, the lifeguard who has apparently just dragged her out of the sea, and a leery teenage boy. The deal is that, in exchange for a can of Pepsi, the lifeguard will ‘swap’ with the teenage boy, and the subtext is that the boy will abuse his position as ‘lifeguard’ to sexually assault the unconscious woman (presumably by giving her the ‘kiss of life’). I’m not posting the picture because I can’t be arsed to give it any more currency. You can find it if you google for it.

Plenty of people expressed justified outrage at this ad, which normalises rape culture, reducing the implied sexual assault to some sort of nudge-nudge, wink-wink joke.

Now Pepsi have taken steps to deny this advert is anything to do with them, through blog comment boxes and personal emails, assuring bloggers and complainants that this was an unsolicited pitch from an advertising agency, and that “it inadvertantly made its way to the internet”. Bullshit.

This is what viral marketers *do*. They pay some ad agency to put out an ad that’s so offensive it’ll be guaranteed to have everyone writing blog posts about it, sending links to the You-Tube ad for it and generally be talking all over the place about it. You know, the sort of ad they’d never get on TV because it contravenes all sorts of regulations on discrimination or incitement to hatred. Then after people have started talking about it, they issue a statement denying all knowledge (guaranteeing people talk about it a while longer – and, look, Pepsi – it’s working!). Finally, they get to have their cake and eat it. Everyone’s talking about it, they spend minmal money circulating it, and they get to look like the good guys by saying things like:

“Please know that we would never use this type of imagery to sell our products”.

.. and have people like Melissa McEwan (who I love, I’m not having a dig!) say things like:

“their response is about as good a corporate reply to a concern raised about misogynist advertising as I’ve seen”

Meanwhile, Melissa herself points out that Pepsi actually is a listed client of the advertising agency in question. There is no question that this could have been for prior work. It could be that what Pepsi said to Cara, that they had genuine “respect and understanding for our offense at the ad” is true. Cara spoke to them, not me, and she might have a different take on it.

All I’m saying is…. it worked out pretty well for Pepsi, huh?

Sounds like bullshit to me.

** this is all my opinion, I could be wrong yadda yadda, please don’t sue me **