Pepsi's controversial ad used imagery from the Black Lives Matter movement to sell soft drinks and, rightly, people weren't happy.
This week, Pepsi released its new advert, starring reality star Kendall Jenner. Nothing remarkable there. Unfortunately, Pepsi had decided to use imagery from the Black Lives Matter movement to sell soft drinks and, rightly, people weren’t happy. Since the uproar, Pepsi has withdrawn the ad, so you may not even be able to see it any more, but there are lessons to be learnt.
In case you missed it, the Pepsi ad featured Kendall Jenner, in blonde wig, engrossed in a glamorous photo shoot. Meanwhile, a peaceful protest of some kind is taking place and drifting past the window. The ad cuts to a woman in a hijab struggling with her photography project and a cellist practicing alone, until they’re both drawn towards the protest. It’s a multi-cultural, multi-faith, gender fluid jamboree. Jenner is the last one to join the party. She whips off her blonde wig, tosses it at the only dark-skinned black woman in the piece, struts through the crowd to cheers and approaches the police barricade. It ends with her handing one of the stern-faced police officers a can of Pepsi – he drinks, everyone’s happy.
There are so many things wrong with this advert and you can find full breakdowns on the mistakes elsewhere. However, there are three main lessons for brands to learn from Pepsi’s mistakes:
Black Oppression and Civil Rights Protest aren’t Fashion Trends
The main problem with the advert is that Pepsi saw the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement as something it could co-opt to sell drinks. It’s a crass commercial move that undermines the real struggle the Black Lives Matter movement represents. Pepsi clearly has no interest in the political marches and protests we’ve seen around the world, recently. The company just saw a social media trend and decided to use it to sell a product. At a time when black people are being shot by police in the US and people are rising up in protest, it was a serious misstep.
In addition, the advert used what has become the iconic image of black protest, the lone figure of Ieshia Evans standing in front of riot police. However, the advert replaced a black woman with a famous white woman with no history of political activisim. This not only trivialised Evans’ moment by using it to sell Pepsi, but also removed black people from the protest, also sidelining the other token minorities featured in the ad.
Choose Your Brand Ambassador Carefully
Kylie Jenner was the wrong person to front an already flawed advert for Pepsi. Not only is Jenner a white woman, therefore erasing black women from their own protest, but she is also known in the black community for being culturally insensitive. In addition, Jenner has no connection to the Black Lives Matter movement, in fact she’s never shown any political awareness or support for any civil rights protests or marches. She’s a rich, white woman who is famous for being famous and then became a model and lives in the bubble of privilege that that affords. I’m not knocking her for her lifestyle, but she’s clearly not the right person for a politically charged advert.
Would the Pepsi ad work if they’d used a black woman? It would have been better, but still unwise. Pepsi has used Beyonce in its ads before and she would have been a much better fit for this political message of hope and solidarity. Queen Bey has used black power imagery in her music videos and her last album was a commentary on the black American experience, especially black women. Beyonce would have helped Pepsi avoid the white savior issue of a white woman stepping up to help minorities win their own battle, but ultimately, it would have still been an ad that uses the commodification of black struggle to sell soda.
Diversity in the Boardroom
One of the most shocking things about the Pepsi ad is the number of people who must have seen and approved it. I don’t know who is on the board for Pepsi but I’m willing to bet they’re white because anyone of colour would have seen the problems from a mile away. Hiring from a diverse pool of people, which includes ethnicity, political and religious beliefs, sexuality, gender and social backgrounds is one of the best ways of avoiding embarrassing moments like this latest Pepsi ad. It’s not foolproof, but it helps.
The best thing about the Pepsi ad was the response from ‘black Twitter’…
"Now just wait one second officers.
I have a Pepsi." pic.twitter.com/NW0sddKOOI
— Philip Lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) April 5, 2017
and from Martin Luther King’s daughter, which finally prompted Pepsi to pull the ad.
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) April 5, 2017
Quite often, I get briefs that are a little…er…too brief. A quick email with a link thrown in or an attachment and a lot of wishful thinking, do not a good brief make. At the other end of the scale, I get an email trail with eight attachments and several links to follow. This deluge of information isn’t very helpful either. I have to spend a lot of time deciphering the emails to extract a brief. Then I have to open all the attachments and follow all the links and read all the information and try and discern which ones are pertinent to the brief. It’s a bit like archaeology and it takes a long time.
There’s a careful balance to be struck between you and your copywriter. You want to give me enough information to make a great first draft, but you don’t want to swamp me with files and documents, which will add time to the project and the end cost. Sometimes, more isn’t necessarily more.
I avoid this issue by providing my clients with a briefing sheet. This is a brief questionnaire, which asks the right questions to ensure I have all the information I need. It also helps you clarify the brief in your own head. The briefing sheet is fast and easy to fill out, saving you time and helping you understand what I need to get started.
Sometimes, briefing a copywriter can be a daunting task, if you’ve never done it before, but a good brief is key to getting a project off on the right foot. It means I deliver a better result and there are fewer redrafts, which means you stick to your budget.
If your copywriter doesn’t provide a briefing sheet, try suggesting it to them. Or just drop me a line to discuss your latest project and get it under way – no stress, just great copy.
This is my 10 year anniversary as a freelance copywriter. 10 years of wonderful clients (mostly).
I started in a flat in London and relocated to a house in Taunton, Somerset. It wasn’t easy finding business outside the Capital, but thanks to a client introducing me to Taunton BNI, it gets easier with every passing year.
I just want to say, thanks to everyone who has helped me get this far. Here’s to the next 10 years.
This week, the last typewriter built in the UK left the production line, marking the end of an era. The typewriter in question rolled out of the Brother factory, in north Wales and straight into a museum. I kid you not, Brother donated its last typewriter to the Science Museum, in London.
Until I heard this news, I hadn’t even considered that people may still use typewriters, you know, to actually write on, let alone that the things were still in production. Oh, sure there must be the odd writer who insists on banging away on the old Underwood, but other than that, surely everyone’s too busy trying to find their tablet stylus down the back of the sofa or swype texting to worry about this loss.
innocent danced onto the food and drink scene in 1999 and did more than just bring us a host of tasty fruit concoctions.
Prior to the launch of innocent, food packaging had been a fairly staid affair. You’d get the brief description, boasting “British beef” and “red wine gravy”, if they were being really inventive (I’m imagining a cottage pie, here, not a smoothie). There’d be a glossy photo on the box and then all the boring ingredients and bits and bobs on the back. And that would be it. How to market food the dull, predictable way.
Enter stage left, innocent.
I love innocent because they really know how to use copywriting to enhance their brand and connect with their customers.
Journalists get hundreds of press releases every day so you need to make sure yours stands out from the crowd. The key is to write a story that doesn’t get sent straight to the trash bin and doesn’t result in you being put on that journalist’s junk mail list. Read on to find out how.
Everyone can write, so what’s the point of hiring a copywriter, right? Yes and no. Anyone can throw a few words together, but nothing lets your business down like sloppy copy and believe me, it’s easy to spot. Don’t let long, rambling sentences bog your customers down. Bad writing can turn them off before you’ve even got to the good bits about all your great services and business benefits.
When people ask what I do, I invariably get one of two reactions. The first is a polite, yet baffled look. The second is when they ask me if I can help trademark their Uncle Bob’s mad invention.
Just to clarify, I am a copywriter – emphasis on the ‘w’. I am not one who is involved in copyright law and protecting creative ownership of an intellectual property, such as a book or film.
A copywriter is a person who writes copy or content for advertising or marketing purposes. It’s all about the art of persuasion and a copywriter is an expert at harnessing the power of words to sell products and influence people.