A Response From Pepsi

by Cara on October 20, 2008

in marketing, media, misogyny, patriarchy, products, rape and sexual assault, violence against women and girls

Today, a Pepsi-Cola Company representative posted this comment on Feministe as a response to my post about the “lifeguard ad”:

Official Response from Pepsi-Cola Company:

Pepsi-Cola Company wants to assure you that there’s absolutely no Pepsi advertisement in circulation that even remotely resembles the creative in question. After investigating this matter further, we learned that an advertising agency developed this print ad on “speculation” and it inadvertently made its way to the internet.

Please know that we would never use this type of imagery to sell our products. We are not using this image now, nor do we have any plans to use it in the future.

We’re sincerely sorry that this has upset you and we’re grateful to have had the opportunity to set the record straight. If anyone following this topic would like to discuss this issue further, free to contact me at the email address listed below.

Bart Casabona
bart.casabona@pepsi.com
Pepsi-Cola Company

I followed up with Bart to verify that this is in fact an official statement.  In his response to my email, Bart also expressed his respect and understanding for our offense at the ad and assured me that Pepsi would never choose to market their brand in this manner.

I for one certainly appreciate that Pepsi took the time to look into this, and that their response not only denied but also denounced this advertisement.  I think it’s very important for them to do so when these ads have been gaining traction in advertising circles (where I myself looked in attempt to validate them) as legitimate.  The company may not have created the ad, but their branding is still on it; for that reason they needed come out against the values perpetuated in the image.  And I very much hope that Pepsi will not be using the advertising agency that created this ad in the future.

As for the ad itself . . . I think that this whole thing has been a rather interesting if not particularly surprising experiment in rape apologism.  I spent the weekend wading through, deleting and occassionally responding to large volumes of troll comments on two different blogs.  In those comments, I was called everything under the sun and the outrage that many of us felt upon seeing this ad was harshly mocked.  The complaint from every single one of these people was not that the ad was illegitimate, but that there was nothing wrong with it.  That response coupled with the fact that advertising promoting non-consensual sexual behavior is indeed very real says a lot about what I orginally declared the issue to be — rape culture. The ad is fake; rape culture is not.  While fully acknowledging and regretting the error here, I think it’s important to remember that.

Bookmark and Share

{ 8 comments }

1 verify October 20, 2008 at 4:54 pm

How does Pepsi explain this?

http://www.advertolog.com/paedia/prints/2008/10/11/205103/

CLM BBDO is a large and well established ad agency that has handled other ad campaigns for Pepsi.

2 Cara October 20, 2008 at 4:57 pm

Because that’s the agency that created it? The fact that it’s on that site is only evidence that the ad agency let it get out there; not that Pepsi has run it.

3 verify October 20, 2008 at 5:16 pm

A rep I contacted said it was approved by Pepsi to run in France. I’ll see if I can convince her to e-mail you.

4 Dani October 20, 2008 at 7:03 pm

I don’t know how the ad could have run in France: the lettering is clearly in English. And, er, I’d just like to be the one to say Pepsi may or may not be sexist, but they’re certainly anti-union, unconcerned about the health risks of their products and a myriad of other nasty corporate things. But that’s just my opinion. Pffft.

5 SunlessNick October 21, 2008 at 6:20 am

As for the ad itself . . . I think that this whole thing has been a rather interesting if not particularly surprising experiment in rape apologism … The complaint from every single one of these people was not that the ad was illegitimate, but that there was nothing wrong with it. - Cara

This reminds me of what Sara B said in the original thread:

The people who are defending this ad really seem to have put a lot of thought into why it isn’t implying sexual violation. My guess is this reflects on how they approach sex in life- pushing and negotiating the limits of what they can “get away with,”

… and one commentator at Renee’s Womanist Musings post insistently referring to the ad as a “child kissing a sleeping adult” (with of course the requisite incredulity that this might be compared to a sexual assault).

All in all, a desperate search for technicalities as to why this time doesn’t count. Which is foundation of all rape apologism: they maintain their sense of righteousness (and deniability) by theoretically recognising that sexual assault is wrong; they just have an intricate set of exceptions and permissions to explain why this time it’s not really sexual assault. And a large enough set that, to quote Ashley, “somehow, every time is this time.”

6 Lucas October 21, 2008 at 7:42 am

Many legit advertising journals are running the ad with the belief that Pepsi authorized it. Can’t Pepsi have it pulled if it did not?

7 Danyell October 23, 2008 at 4:31 pm

I need to also note here that there are now a lot of companies who put out shocking viral image ads on the web that they could never get away with in other media and then denounce them after the fact.

This way they get to put the images out there and take no responsibility for them.

I mean, how does a spec image “accidentally” get online? Gimme a break.

8 Mheald November 4, 2008 at 4:58 pm

Have y’all seen the Levi’s ads? I think they illustrate a great example of what Danyell’s getting at – that companies run things online that they wouldn’t elsewhere.

{ 1 trackback }

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: