Global Warming Traced to Pepsi’s Gigantic Trashfire of an Ad

Stop putting all millennials in one basket — please.

Hitwise, a division of Connexity

Back in December, AdWeek released a story about how Pepsi and Coca-Cola were both losing younger consumers. The more health conscientious younger generation has been avoiding overly-processed foods in favor of more organic options, which does not bode well for Pepsi and the Flint, Michigan tap water it calls soda. As a result, an all-out war has begun between Coke and Pepsi to see who can attract the most millennials to their brand. Coca-Cola has been largely successful in their marketing campaign, appealing to the brands already long history in pop culture while connecting to new trends like Marvel films.

Pepsi, on the other hand, decided that instead of that, they were going to shit the bed and see how that played out. Ladies and Gentlemen, behold a miscarriage of advertising:


I wish I could have been in the meeting where they came up with this ad was developed.

“Okay, what do millennials like? Kendall Jenner, right? She’s someone young people like. Okay, what else? My son listens to weird music, so let’s have some weird music in there too. I think they draw a lot, let’s have someone drawing something. And I think I saw something about how they get paid to protest so they can post pictures of it online?”

Before I shit on this too much, let’s throw some stats out there. According to Amobee Brand Intelligence, digital engagement around Pepsi has increased by 366 percent in just one day, which by most advertising metrics is a good thing. However:

  • 43 percent of this engagement has discussed the ad in connection with Black Lives Matter.
  • 31 percent have called the ad “tone-deaf.”
  • 10 percent have called it the “worst ever.”

This gets even funnier when you look up the statistics for “tone-deaf” and find that 77 percent of its usage — last week — related to Pepsi.

Now that I’ve provided statistics to base my rant on, let the words flow. Pepsi, I get it. You’re worried that over time young people are going to stop drinking your product altogether. You’re scared that if you don’t seem cool or hip, you’ll be forgotten in the sands of time. I’m here to tell you right now that you don’t have to worry, because I and all people will continue drinking Pepsi for the same reason we always have: because the store is out of Coca-Cola.

To call this ad condescending would be like calling Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme “shenanigans.” The ad attempts repeatedly to touch on numerous issues that connect to millennial culture, but botches them in such a way that the video turns into a 2-minute-insult.

  • The ad is focused around a protest, similar to the Women’s March or the Black Lives Matter rallies around the country for several years. However, the protest in the ad isn’t centered around any cause, and appears to be just a gathering of young people. The ultimate victory of the “protest” occurs when Kendall Jenner hands a Pepsi can to a police officer, causing the crowd to erupt in applause. I seem to have missed all those “Give Police A Pepsi” signs at the Women’s March.
  • The various characters of this ad are hilariously trite. The attempts at a multicultural cast feels like someone in the boardroom said “Find as many different looking people as possible.” The main characters are a guy with gauges playing the cello and a girl wearing a hijab who’s a photographer. Neither feels like an attempt to bring in other cultures, but rather that bringing in diversity was an afterthought. The background characters are painted as “rebels without a cause,” concocted in the imagination of someone who has likely never spoken to a millennial.
  • Why is Kendall Jenner the central character of this ad? Why is she important to the plotline? Thank God she takes time out of her modelling shoot to join the common folk in their protest. How does she save the day by handing a drink to someone? What has she contributed here? Also, am I the only one who noticed that she found the time to make a wardrobe change before joining the protest?

I could rant about what’s wrong with this ad for the better part of my day, but instead I’m going to transition to another point: stop trying to market shit to millennials like this. Very regularly, marketing campaigns place millennials in one giant bucket full of EDM and skinny jeans, and in the process fail to grasp what their younger audience has actually expressed interest in. Stop giving the reins to Baby Boomers and Gen-X; hire someone under the age of 30 to give you a fresh perspective. The vast majority of us will tell you that Kendall Jenner is not our hero.

This has been discussed time and time again, most notably by Adam Connover of Adam Ruins Everything during his talk at Deep Shift (it’s 25 minutes long, but let’s be honest: you weren’t going to do anything better with those 25 minutes).

Take a seat Pepsi, learn a thing or two.