Schadenfreude For The Pepsi Fiasco

Taking pleasure in the misfortune of others (schadenfreude) is not the noblest emotion, but sometimes it’s justified. But being raised a good Catholic boy, I have some guilty feelings about it.

So, bless me, Father, for I have sinned–– I feel schadenfreude for Pepsi’s colossal fail with the Kendall Jenner video and spot.

Why? Because the company did it to itself.

Pepsi made a big deal when it announced it was launching Creators League, an internal creative services company. And this same think tank brought us the idea that made a huge splash in the Pepsi punchbowl.

Two years ago, the marketing head of Pepsi lambasted the agency world in dramatic fashion.

Fast forward to this catastrophe.

As Plato or someone smart once said, “Kharma is a bitch.”

I know, different religion.

So, yes, I confess I am a petty agency person who takes delight in seeing a client shoot itself in the foot because I’ve spent a career protecting ideas from clients who had “concerns” and “issues” when they played “devil’s advocate” in protecting the public.

I have sat behind two-way mirrors and witnessed the artificial environment of consumer focus groups as they reviewed creative work and improved the hell out of ideas by making them more like other ideas they have seen.

I have seen fresh ideas bludgeoned, bastardized, sanitized and transformed into lesser ideas by clients wishing to protect the innocent public.

Somehow, Pepsi created this Kendall Jenner atrocity all by itself. Didn’t they ask any consumers about this concept? Or, did they strategize a creative brief that made business sense–– “associate the Pepsi brand with the diverse Millennial audiences and fuel their intrinsic passions while satisfying their extrinsic refreshment needs”… then, create this phony pile of crap?

I suspect they created it in their artificial bubble. A prime example of marketers smelling their own breath.

Pepsi deserves to suffer for this work. It was a child playing with matches, and it got burned.

And in an ironic twist, when the outrage flooded all media, Pepsi withdrew the work and issued an apology to the public and Kendall Jenner! The company’s primary concern seemed to be protecting its relationship with its celebrity endorser.

I know the client-agency relationship is at an all-time low in trust. Over 60% of national advertisers in a recent Roper poll said they’d be conducting agency reviews.

And frankly, our sins are many and deserved. But I will still walk through fire to work with a good client.

I’ve believed it has always been the job of a good ad agency to act as a conduit to consumers. To be empathetic and understanding to their needs and create a message that would interest and satisfy them.

To make truth resonate.

Maybe I’m a dinosaur and our industry is dead.

No one knows where the marketing business is going, but one thing is for sure–– consumers can still detect bullshit in an instant. And they don’t like it.

Now, Father, how many Hail Marys and Our Fathers do I get sentenced?