Image by Cartuna
It seems last week’s Pepsi commercial didn’t just piss off the public, it also pissed off a lot of big brands. By casting scores of multi-ethnic extras in its grossly misguided commercial, Pepsi completely overstepped the boundaries of a tried-and-trusted marketing strategy depended on by virtually every household name consumer brand.
The strategy, known in the industry as “Color Blocking” or “Touche du brun,” is essentially where an ad campaign incorporates a token person of color to make the brand its representing look like Jesus of fucking Nazareth walking on water.
“When it comes to color blocking, it’s definitely a case of less is more” said The Gap CEO, Eric Fiester. “A perfect example of this is our 2015 kid’s spring campaign. Just look at how well we incorporated that little black girl into the frame as a human leaning block.”
“But when Pepsi goes and blows the lid by casting only people of color, it ruins everything. All this does is draw attention to our routine exploitation of token minorities to sell products and I’m sorry but, that’s just not cool.” Fiester continued.
Cheerios CEO, Dan Jenkins, described himself as being “livid” with Pepsi and said he could see precisely where the company had gone wrong. “The key to color blocking is subtly. You want diversity, but not enough that the audience starts questioning how many late nights your marketing team spent pouring over consumer studies on the desired representation of race on TV in order to strike the ‘right balance.’”
“Speaking of ‘right balance,’ how well we smashed the ball out of the park with our 2016 interracial family ad? White mom. Black dad. Never actually appearing in the same room. Genius.”
Head of Marketing for Mr. Clean, Jennifer Totling, agreed with Jenkins that there was some method to the token-use-of-black-people madness. “Look, I get it. Pepsi wanted to do something bold. But you have to ease your way into this stuff. Just like we did with our seventy-year transition from a white Mr. Clean to a black Mr. Clean.”
“If you come in too hot like Pepsi did, people won’t just see through your contrived advertising strategy, they’ll actually start criticizing you for it on the Twitter and that Facebook thingy.”
Apple’s Head of Advertising, Kyle O’Doyle was more sympathetic to Pepsi’s plight. “So they screwed up. We all do it. In fact, given Apple’s heavy use of color blocking over the years I’m surprised none of our commercials have ever been ripped to shreds and exposed for the superficial, manipulative garbage reels they are.”
“The thing is, audiences are getting smarter. They’re picking up on our disingenuous attempts to act like we give two shits about minorities and the racial breakdown of the actors and models in our ads is the first place they go to look,” O’Doyle explained.
“That’s why Apple’s shaking things up. By using Freedom, Beyonce’s poetic acapella about the African American struggle, as the soundtrack to our latest Apple watch campaign, we’re able to tell consumers “hey look, we’re in touch!” without any of the try-hard, on-the-nose imagery that ultimately sank the Pepsi commercial. It’s subliminal as fuck.”
As for Pepsi, the drama just keeps on coming. After the embattled company issued an exclusive apology to the Kendall Jenner within hours of its commercial’s release, a whole new strain of public outrage erupted over Pepsi’s continued disregard for the real victims in all this: it’s fellow consumer brands.
Pepsi has since worked to amend this by publishing the following statement on Wednesday: “We are deeply sorry to our fellow consumer brands for whom the slam-dunk marketing approach of racial tokenism has now been jeopardized. Color blocking is a practice we’ve all come to know and love dearly. Words cannot express our disappointment at this time.”