Mountain Dew’s Marketing Muckup, Painful PR

by PR Coach on May 1, 2013

Mountain Dew ad is PR fail

Mountain Dew video ad is marketing mistake

Sometimes you come across a PR fail that is so big, it’s hard to believe.

Marketers at Mountain Dew (owned by PepsiCo) hit the bottom of the barrel when it comes to racism and disrespect to abused women everywhere with a new video spot.

To see how bad this ad is, you need to watch the 58-sec spot. I saw it but PepsiCo lawyers are moving quickly to force the removal of the video ad from websites. Visuals are still available in social media but disappearing fast.

The firestorm for Mountain Dew is just beginning.

They’ve responded by removing their ad from every YouTube and social media channel they can. Unfortunately, you can’t see it on Mashable any more who covered the story today and at AdWeek and AdRants which both posted about it today too.

TV and mainstream media are on the story too (see More Reading below) and it’s trending widely on social media in just its first hours today as an issue.

Mountain Dew TV Ad an Utter Marketing Fail

bad PR for Mountain Dew TV AdThe story began with social commentator Boyce Watkins in a Your Black World post where he called out the Mountain Dew commercial:

“It appears that Mountain Dew is right on board with the degradation and disrespect for the entire African American community being pursued by the worst in the hip-hop community.  This ad has to be one of the most irresponsible pieces of trash in the history of corporate advertising.”

It’s not only how bad the TV spot content Is. It’s also an example of a total failure in marketing strategy.

We know from Saturday Night Live and standup comics that stereotypes are great fodder for humor, satire and late-night TV. Not to mention sometimes brilliant advertising.

Tyler, The Creator

Tyler, The Creator

Looking at this ad, the stereotypes aren’t funny. In any way. Even if produced by gangsta hip-hop group Odd Future co-founder Tyler, The Creator.

Who is the target audience? Is there someone in this spot we can like, admire, be inspired by or relate to? Does it make us laugh? Maybe nervously because we know what is coming as people see and comment on the ad in days ahead. Even the goat comes off badly.

The script and dialogue are no better. Don’t go looking or listening for any reason to buy that great tasting Mountain Dew soda. No,  you won’t be doin’ the Dew. Just suffering from a bad taste in your mouth.

Oh, it is wonderfully filmed. If you’re comparing it to an edgy hip-hop MTV video, Coen Brothers movie or the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

I get the trying to be cool and in with your target market. It just doesn’t work.

That’s what happens when creative rules and common sense doesn’t. A big PR fail.

I simply can’t imagine how this ad would generate sales growth. Let alone brand integrity, trust or brand love.

In contrast, look no further for a brilliant example of how to do it right than Oreo cookies during the 2013 Super Bowl.

I’m certain this marketing fail will be taught in business school for years.

It’s another case of marketers gone wild. Seems we’re never safe from creatives who haven’t grown up or consider their audiences to be stupid, undiscerning or uncaring. Witness other clumsy advertising attempts during Hurricane Sandy, the Japanese tsunami or Ford ad concepts in India.

Full Damage Control Not Yet Underway by Mountain Dew

Mountain Dew website and promotionApparently Mountain Dew doesn’t feel it’s a social media issue yet

A spokesperson offered a tepid email apology to media including Adweek and MTV:

“We understand how this video could be perceived by some as offensive, and we apologize to those who were offended,” the rep said. “We have removed the video from all Mountain Dew channels and have been informed that Tyler is removing it from his channels as well.”

The TV spot may still be viewable in social media channels though it has been removed from YouTube and most media sites.

What Should Mountain Dew Do to Minimize Bad PR?

It’s early but this will be an interesting case study in issues management. No “official” statements yet from Mountain Dew and PepsiCo. No word from TV spot producer Tyler, The Creator. Nothing from the ad agency responsible.

The issue has only broken today and it’s early days yet.

I’m not even going to offer them PR advice. The lessons are clear and they’re sophisticated enough to know what to do.

You can expect to hear apologies. A quick social media response to critics. Social media efforts to explain and move on as soon as possible.

Perhaps a heartfelt comment from a Mountain Dew or PepsiCo leader. Maybe even donations to black community and battered women’s’ groups or other important causes.

Expect to hear from other commentators, interest groups and consumers in the media and social media channels as the issue generates velocity.

Often it’s tempting to ignore stupidity and not give it any additional publicity. But in this case, Mountain Dew deserves the negative publicity it gets over this marketing muckup.

Some might say this is really a brilliant public relations strategy. You know, “no such thing as bad publicity.” When this firestorm finally dials down, I guarantee Mountain Dew will wish they had never produced this spot.

Sometimes I’m sad to say I started in this business as a copywriter.

I’m just glad I can add my voice to what I hope will be a huge vote of disapproval against this and similar marketing tactics in the future. Consumers have that ability now through social media.

As always we’re glad to hear from you. What do you think of the ad? Is there any redeeming value to it?

We’ve got lots of other examples of bad PR and marketing mayhem in our virtual PR Library. Why not browse through for some other lessons?

Author - Jeff Domansky

Visuals: Mashable, Odd Future, Mountain Dew

More reading on Mountain Dew Marketing Fail:

Controversial Mountain Dew Video Featuring Hip Hop Group Odd Future Denounced as Racist, Sexist [NBC Bay News]

Mountain Dew ad yanked after many find it racist, misogynist [Fox News]

Mountain Dew Pulls Ad After Cries of Racism [Mashable]

Mountain Dew Pulls ‘Most Racist Commercial in History’ [Adweek]

Mountain Dew Releases Arguably the Most Racist Commercial in History [Your Black World]

Mountain Dew’s ‘Most Racist Ad in History’ Pulled [AdRants]

PepsiCo pulls Mountain Dew ad dubbed racist  [USA Today]

Racist Mountain Dew Commercial? Music Group ‘Odd Future’ Featured In Troubling Soda Ad [Huffington Post]

Tyler The Creator and Mountain Dew Facing Criticism For New Ad Being Called Racist [AllHipHop.com]

Tyler, The Creator’s Mountain Dew Ads Yanked After Racist Charges [MTV]