Thursday, May 2, 2013

PepsiCo Victimizes Mountain Dew

For years, PepsiCo has portrayed its Mountain Dew soft drink as a highly refreshing pick-me-up for youth engaged in spirited activity. The heyday of Mountain Dew advertising was its “Do the Dew” campaign focused on the boost of energy and acuity needed for extreme sports.

Now comes the company with a viral advertising campaign launched on YouTube and intended for distribution by social media audiences.

They got the attention sought, but not the kind of attention they desired.

The last two days have seen a flash of fury concerning this viral advertising campaign for imagery that is being called both racist and promoting of violence toward women.

There is one more injured party in this saga. PepsiCo has victimized Mountain Dew.

The main character in this three-part campaign is actually a male goat – named Felicia – who in Part 1 of the series encounters his first taste of Mountain Dew when it is forced upon him by a waitress in a restaurant. The goat strikes the waitress in the face cutting her when she urges him to taste Mountain Dew.

The goat takes a first sip, hallucinates, and demands more as he continues to strike the waitress. 

Felicia then runs away under the influence of Mountain Dew, saying “You neva gonna catch me.”

In Part 2, an errant sedan is pulled over by a policeman. The sedan is driven by the fleeing Felicia, the goat. Felicia attempts to hide a can of Mountain Dew from the officer, as though it is a controlled substance.

Acting upon his suspicions, the officer opens the trunk to find it full of empty Mountain Dew bottles and cans. He remarks, “This is a clear case of ‘Dew-U-I’.”

In Part 3, police detectives ask the injured waitress to identify her attacker.  Felicia, the goat, is shown in a standard line-up setting along with five others who appear to be “stereotypical ghetto hoods.”  Therein lies the basis for the first level of outrage and complaint about racism. Subsequent concerns have been raised about violence toward women.

PepsiCo acted swiftly to withdraw this social media campaign. However, companies lose control of content in social media and the videos are still available from many sources to anyone who searches.

Moreover, better advertising is based upon respect for consumers and audiences and the products being sold.

In this case, PepsiCo has revealed its advertising strategy to be premised on a message argument about addiction. With his first sip, the goat hallucinates, acts badly and runs off. In the second episode, goat is shown by the officer to be under the influence of a common addiction the officer names. In the third episode, the impairment potential is so substantial it even leads the detective to act with unprofessional judgment as he drinks Mountain Dew and encourages the waitress to pick one member of the line-up and then another seemingly at random.

The very selling idea of this campaign is “nothing matters, just Dew it.” 

Viral campaigns can be amusing, funny, and even irreverent. Such campaigns allow brands to act more informally and not take themselves too seriously.

But, advertising campaigns nevertheless must be grounded in core values that respect consumers, audiences and the product being sold. Truly, that is the responsibility of people who are marketing and advertising professionals.

       Copyright © 2013 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

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