A truism that pervades our industry is that the worst thing that can happen to your work is not to have it hated, but to have it ignored.
Well, I hope this thought is keeping the Pepsi team warm tonight, because it’s probably the only morsel of comfort to be found in the wreckage of their latest ad and flames of mockery that have engulfed it.
To be fair I guess they can also take heart in the fact that they did indeed manage to unite people – just like they said they would – it’s just a shame that the common ground they provided was at their expense.
There probably hasn’t ever been an ad storm quite like this, but the closest parallel that comes to mind is the infamous Protein World scandal from 2015. And this should make us pause for thought. For Protein World’s campaign was not only hated; it was incredibly successful, garnering £2 million of sales for the small brand in a few short days. Could the same reward befall Pepsi?
The short answer is… probably not.
The two scenarios aren’t really analogous, since Protein World chose a particular side of an argument, and simply defended it to the hilt, thereby attracting hate from one faction but fandom from another. Pepsi on the other hand also chose a particular side in the culture wars, but it is this side that has turned against it the most viciously, with the protesting classes voicing deep offence at the work while the other side of the aisle simply shake their head incredulously. In other words, at least some people were on Protein World’s side – Pepsi on the other hand has no one.
That said, if hatred is better than indifference, then there should still be glimmers of hope to be found for the brand. So here are three reasons to be (sort of) cheerful…