Adverts and politics: Good intentions, bad reasons and ugly outcomes
I wrote last time about playing with political truths in a way that might be to satisfy a new generation, something I felt seemed evident in what I’d read about a new biopic of Winston Churchill.
But it has got me thinking about when advertising campaigns embrace politics, something that recently has not gone well for them. I’m thinking specifically about the disastrous Pepsi advert where Kendal Jenner offers policeman Pepsi in order to unite everyone at a protest. The ad was widely mocked and criticised, including a humorous video of someone actually offering Pepsi to policemen at a protest to no avail (obviously!).
The ad was quickly pulled and Pepsi apologised. I think the ad was ridiculous, but then I have written about my love of the marketing of Coca-Cola, Pepsi’s rival, so you might call me biased. However, my intention with this article is actually to stick up for Pepsi. This is because I wholeheartedly believe them when they said they intended the advert to be about bringing everyone together, and I honestly think that they did have good intentions. It just backfired in their face.
Shortly after this, Heineken released an advert that showed people with opposing political beliefs coming together, having a beer before being informed by the organisers of the events of each other’s opposing beliefs. Whilst I quite enjoyed the advert, and it was well executed in its actual message of overcoming differences, I feel like it was ultimately made in a response to Pepsi, as if to say, “this is how it is done you idiots.” To me it seems that the company embraced politics not because they actually wanted to spread this message, but to label themselves as more superior in their marketing.
Is this fair? Quite possibly. Pepsi screwed up and they are facing the consequences. It was a PR disaster, but I think their intentions were good. Not that it’s affected my choice either way. I prefer coke.
Heineken, on the other hand, are perhaps deliberately using another brand’s failure to achieve success. And whilst this may be an impressive tactical move from their marketing department, to me the obvious intentions behind it put me off the brand. Or maybe it’s just because I just prefer Guinness.