By Dawn Cranfield
Mountain Dew Ad “Most Racist in History” Pulled by PepsiCo
PepsiCo’s newest attempt at marketing the caffeine and sugar fueled neon green soda, Mountain Dew, has backfired. An advertisement being dubbed “arguably the most racist commercial in history” by Boyce Watkins, a Syracuse University professor has been pulled from all of its online channels. (npr.org)
The snack food giant turned over creative direction of the last three Mountain Dew spots to rapper Tyler, The Creator, in order to reach a younger, hipper audience. Tyler’s commercials feature Felicia the goat, voiced by Tyler, in varying situations; the first is Felicia in a restaurant out of Mountain Dew, the second is the goat being pulled over for a DewUI. Interesting. Witty. Prosaic. Confusing. Possibly all of those things combined, you would have to watch and judge for yourself.
However, the latest ad, also highlighting Felicia, has a beaten and bandaged white female with crutches addressing a lineup of black men and the goat. Felicia taunts the woman as a detective urges her to identify the suspect, saying, “Better not snitch on a player”, “keep ya mouth shut”, and “snitches get stitches”. Eventually, the woman flees the police station saying, “I can’t do this, no, no, no.”
While the advertisement is being hailed by some as being the most offensive and racist ever, and PepsiCo has taken it off all their online channels (it was never meant to be aired on television) and they have asked Tyler to take it down as well, the soda moguls appear appropriately and politically remorseful as they express regret via Twitter. “‘We understand how this video could be perceived by some as offensive, and we apologize to those who were offended,’ Pepsi told AdWeek. On Twitter, Mountain Dew called the ad a ‘big mistake.’” (npr.org)
Still, if they understood how the video may have been offensive, perhaps it would not have been produced initially. Even if it had been produced, it may not have been publicized once executives saw the finished product if they understood the likelihood that some may perceive it as offensive.
In a world where creativity reigns supreme, it is easy to see where firms with seemingly unlimited budgets look to celebrated stars (e.g. rappers) to promote their products and give them an edgier vibe, but they would be wise to oversee the project to maintain the integrity of the product.
Was the advertisement offensive? Yes. However, it was more confusing than offensive. I had no idea what it had to do with Mountain Dew; it seems it should have been offensive to PepsiCo instead of the viewing audience.
Tyler, The Creator’s audience more than likely was not offended because his audience undoubtedly knows his particular brand of style, humor, and outlook on life. If his music, lyrics, and videos portray violence against women, black men in jail, and goats, then how could PepsiCo or the public be surprised by the results of the video.
PepsiCo’s decision to pull the ad comes on the heels of other marketing campaigns acquiescing to the court of public opinion; McDonald’s recently took down posters reflecting depressed women, and Hyundai stopped ads lampooning suicide. Lest we forget further back when Ford had a snafu with an ad angering women’s groups where they showed women bound and gagged, or Jetta with the clever campaign where somebody spoke with a Jamaican accent; it angered some, but the Jamaican visitor’s bureau loved it. You cannot please everyone, apparently.
Last but not least (there are certainly plenty more), Taco Bell cancelled their clever ad about a box of tacos when a Twitter campaign started over vegetables, “Taco Bell has canceled their clever new advertisement showing a disappointed hostess receiving an uninspired tray of pre-cut veggies and placing it next to a box of Taco Bell tacos. While the celery and carrots remain untouched, the tacos disappear; the voiceover in the ad opines, ‘Veggies on game day is like punting on fourth and one. It’s a copout and secretly, people hate you for it.’” (guardianlv.com)