WHEN IT GOES WRONG: Kendall Jenner’s PEPSI dumpster fire and a defence of Creative Agencies

By - CTL
April 6, 2017

By Jen Brewster.

By now, just 24 hours after it was released by a no doubt excited and very pleased with themselves marketing team, PEPSI’s latest spot – featuring Instagram’s most famous user, Kendall Jenner, has been pulled from circulation.

The company released this statement: “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are removing the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”

A bold move from a global brand with a global star as the figurehead of the campaign.


For those that haven’t seen it, it’s a complete clusterfuck of stupidity, a tone-deaf dumpster fire of utter buffoonery that should never have made it out of the idiotic idea stage, never mind have been broadcast to millions on the internet.

“Yeah, listen guys…I’ve got this great idea. You know how protesting is so, like, hot right now? And that photo of the Black Lives Matter girl standing in front of the cops went global, right…and diversity is a big topic right now, right…and Kendall Jenner, right…”

“Sit the fuck down Tommy. You’re drunk.”

Yeah, that’s how it should have went, pretty much. But not with these guys. Not with PEPSI.

In some kind of very, very weird hodge-podge of idiocy, a crowd are protesting in the streets about some vague issue we aren’t aware of, holding vague signs that say things like ‘Love’ and other mumblingly, incoherent messages. An Asian guy is playing a cello, a Muslim girl is looking over her photography, apparently dissatisfied with the results, and elsewhere, nearby, the sweet face of Kendall Jenner is modelling and having her picture taken, with a blonde wig on. As the cellist stops playing and joins the protest, Kendall sees him, and after a cheeky head nod, she throws off her white wig (at a black photographer), and joins in the protest too. Things come to a shuddering climax when the heroic Kendall, instead of having her head bashed in by an abusive, military-style cop, simply hands him a can of PEPSI, much to the pleasure of the crowd, who all cheer at being saved by the famous, white, hero.

NB: None of the above is a joke. This is actually what happens in the ad.

Have a look at the clips in this Business Insider news edit:



Now, since you possibly work in Ad Land, you might ask yourself, who in the hell created this ad? What agency, in their right mind, would have pushed this kind of offensive, cultural highjack through to the end?

The Answer? Pepsi’s own internal agency, the Creators League Studio.

When PEPSI announced their Creators League Studio in May 2016, many feared that it is part of a worrying trend of big brands opening their own content arms and taking the power back into their own hands, instead of using external creative or content agencies.

In this DigiDay article (dated May 2016) Kristin Patrick, SVP of global brand development at PepsiCo, estimates that the company creates 400 pieces of digital video and content a year, including YouTube films, social videos and photos. As the article says: ‘That used to go through agency partners and production shops, but the Creators League space will be a way for Pepsi to bring all of that in house and do it quickly, as well as cheaply.’




As anyone working in the creative world will know, you can refer to this handy pie chart when you do things ‘Fast and Cheap’.

If you want it done fast and cheap, then it will compromise on quality, and judging by the colossal shit fight now going on with their latest piece of genius marketing, that compromising on quality comes right down to the creative ideas on the table.

A lesson then, is to support the people who have made it their life’s work bringing amazing, creative, inspiring work to the screen on behalf of the brands that employ them.

Otherwise, you might find that things can go very, very wrong. Who can you blame when you did it all yourself?

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