Somewhere, in Pepsi HQ, a marketing team are shifting around nervously wondering who to blame. They gave out white Kendall Jenner effortlessly conquering police brutality, the savour of non-white Americans, and the internet did not react how they imagined. The ad campaign has been swiftly withdrawn.
‘Imagined’ was a key error in their campaign. I don’t think anyone of a senior level imagined how people would react to the message their advert sent out – not that Pepsi was a uniting drink but rather, a white girl could stop police brutality with the simple power of Pepsi. If a black man had offered a policeman a Pepsi the unfortunate truth is that it would be no surprise to anyone for the scene to end with a gun shot. Pepsi tried to please the modern, ethically conscious audience and failed miserably.
Awareness of ethics and a brand’s involvement in ethical issues has been an increasing trend in the past decade. Consumers are well educated and millennials are concerned about what the future holds for them and others. Companies have caught onto this, attempting to entice buyers through an image of consciousness and care, if only for profit.
One campaign that has perhaps unintentionally jumped onto ethical issues is Burger King. I’m not talking about where they source their chickens from or their sustainability. But rather, my favourite ad campaign so far this year, created by agencies Freuds and BBH London. The Dirty Louisiana is to me, a burger like every other. But its ad campaign is not – if it had been, I wouldn’t have been tempted to buy the burger purely because I liked and remembered their video advertisement for it- something many companies struggle to achieve, over relying on media that is often ignored by audiences. Parodying the dangerous clean-eating trend, Burger King took no risk in their advert. They knew their customers would take zero offense to a clean eating parody – if they did, they wouldn’t be potential customers. Instead, Burger King caught onto the increasing negative attitudes to the marketing of health books, foods and diets. The very image opposing healthy eating, they saw their chance and took it.
In their ad campaign, a squeaky clean, deliciously-Emma type girl introduces us to the company’s latest ‘clean’ burger. Composing of chai seeds, kale and other foreign ingredients to the land of Burger King, for a second a brief wave of fear washes over the viewer- they can’t be serious, can they? No. Wannabe-Ella is flattened by a sign for the Dirty Louisiana burger at the end – and indeed, the advert has captured the viewers’ attention until the very end. In a world were attention is focussed on what’s left to be found in the next scroll down, concentration lasting a few seconds and videos often being too slow, Burger King have achieved what PR agencies strive for. A clear message – Burger King stands proud to be a dirty, fast food company and always will be – Burger King has something new to offer customers, their new burger – and Burger King understands their customers, sharing their feelings towards clean eating. And even better- they can make their audience laugh.
With careful thought to how customers would react and identifying little danger, Burger King’s success highlights Pepsi’s brand-image-damaging failure even further. Pepsi tried too hard and lacked basic consideration towards potential negative reactions. In a media-filled world where stories concerning police brutality, Trump’s latest endeavours and Syria’s bombings fill the headlines, customers don’t want to see a privileged celebrity unwittingly demonstrate their white privilege. They want to laugh, and they did it with Burger King.