Heads should roll - and Pepsi needs better agency support: reactions to the ad fiasco

PR professionals and adland say that Pepsi staff need to be sacked, and argue that the drinks giant should return to using outside agencies, in the wake of its widely criticised and quickly withdrawn Kendall Jenner campaign.

However, some have also argued that Pepsi will have been happy with the launch (and subsequent) withdrawal of its new ad, because it got the whole world talking about the brand.

After a stunning backlash against an ad which shows protestors and police settling their differences over a can of the drink, the company yesterday apologised and admitted it "clearly missed the mark".

Even after that apology, Mary Harding, MD at PR agency Tangerine, suggested that Pepsi's marketing director would be "more than likely over the moon with the reaction to the ad launch". However, she also noted the lack of substance to Pepsi's peace-loving credentials, saying: "Pepsi needs to actually put its money where it's mouth is and build a wider campaign to support political movements...it will be interesting to see if they do so."

Two PR professionals commenting on Twitter were far less forgiving - suggesting Pepsi staffers' jobs should be in question.

Two more comms pros said that the apology issued by Pepsi just made the brand look worse.

A reader poll on PRWeek US points at a lack of diversity in marketing departments, and over-enthusiastic attempts to reach millennials, as the big causes of Pepsi's misjudged campaign.

It also suggests a lack of PR input, saying an experienced comms professional would have "squashed" the campaign. Women In PR president Mary Whenman said an experience in a previous job underlined the importance of PR sign-off on ad campaigns.

In another poll, this time on PRWeek sister title Campaign, a majority of readers agree that Pepsi's problems were rooted in using an in-house agency, which lacked the perspective that an outside firm would have provided. One PRWeek reader clearly agrees.

PRWeek US writer Diana Bradley also weighed in on the debate.

Finally, sports specialists Pitch Marketing Group pointed out that it already hadn't been a great week for Pepsi.

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