Would you kill yourself for a Pepsi Max?
The newest inductee into the unintentional consequences wing of the Bad Ads Museum is a PepsiMax campaign in Germany, In this ad, a cartoon figure representing the one, very lonely calorie in a bottle of PepsiMax commits suicide in a variety of hilarious ways: hanging, shooting, poisoning, setting itself on fire, or strapping itself to a missile.
As you can imagine, public protests began immediately and grew to a crescendo. In a world reeling from seven years of the War on Terror and fresh with the pictures from Mumbai, making light of self-immolation and rocket attacks wasn't such a good idea. Now Pepsi has laid the ads to rest.
Ad Age's Chris Abraham has an interesting take on the controversy as illustrative of the way that social networking has changed the face of advertising. The immediate buzz and viral spread of displeasure meant that Pepsi could see its mistake and respond almost immediately.
If ONLY there was a way to get this consumer reaction BEFORE the ad was released. You could organize a representative group of people-- for sake of brainstorming, let's call it a "focus group"-- and show them the ads beforehand.
Or you could just throw it out there, step in it, and wait to see if anyone complains about the stench.
And don't miss the BloggingStocks feature Ads Gone Bad.