The Pepsi fiasco – Gauging the audience

As far as advertising goes, the elephant in today’s room is smeared with the Pepsi logo and is attempting to woo a defiant police officer with said beverage. Yes, I’m talking about the infamous Pepsi advertisement that Webster is considering to add to its definition of ‘tone-deaf’. The whole world is talking about it. And here I am with my two cents.

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This is NOT a protest.                                                                                                            Source: YouTube

Okay, let me get the obvious details out of the way. Yes, the advertisement was an abomination. In several ways at that. But the reason it annoyed me beyond all measure was its supposed gauging of its audience. By casting an incredibly attractive Kendall Jenner and casting young men and women as almost all of its extras, the advertisement could not be clearer as to the fact that the intended target audience is youth. So Pepsi knew who they are communicating with.

Knowing your audience is a great start, but that is all it is. A start. An advertiser has to respect his intended audience and its intelligence. They should understand that the audience is not going to accept whatever you throw at them. And while going with trending topics as the overarching theme is a fine thing to do, sentiments of the same audience, and those affected by said trending topics should be the primary consideration at the drawing board. Judging from what they have churned out, Pepsi considers every one of their viewers as a bunch of 4th graders who would be wowed by colors and pretty people, and actually believe that a can of Pepsi does away with all kinds of animosity. Who am I kidding? Even a 4th grader can see right through the artificiality of this campaign. And that there is the core of the problem.

A similar advertisement had surfaced in India in the recent past (You can check it out above). Where the central context is that of a student protest/hunger strike. One of the members partaking in this protest (clearly not one of the brighter ones) sees a bottle of Pepsi, and immediately goes for it. When questioned later, he replies as innocently as he can, “Pepsi thi, pi gaya” (It was a Pepsi, drank it on a spontaneous urge). As much as this trivializes serious issues, it demeans the audience watching it. And that is what every advertisement should not be.

They say customer is King, but that does not mean she/he is the King with the new robes. When you are trying to woo the general public, or a sub domain of it, the first lesson is to not take them lightly. Give them the respect they deserve, and they will give you the respect you, and your campaign deserve.

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