Pepsi's New 'Skinny Can' Opens Big, Fat Brouhaha

Pepsi's New Skinny Can Draws OutrageJust in time for this month's National Eating Disorders Awareness Week comes a pouring-out of offense taken at Diet Pepsi's launch of a "skinny" can. "Our slim, attractive new can is the perfect complement to today's stylish looks," PepsiCo chirped about the can's launch.

The collective outrage at the soda slinger's worship of waifdom echoed from a nation plagued by body-image issues. "Pepsi should be ashamed for declaring that skinny is to be celebrated," Lynn Grefe, president and CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association, said in a press release.The can hits shelves in March, and was being trumpeted at New York's Fall 2011 Fashion Week, which began Thursday. In an ironic follow-up, National Eating Disorders Week runs Feb. 20 through Feb. 26.

Pepsi might pay closer attention to its ad copy on many levels. The cola company touted its "infamous" (sic) campaigns that have celebrated women and fashion in the past. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy. Pepsi's big fat faux pas in the minds of many emerged less than a week after another widespread PR disaster, Groupon poking fun at Tibet's fight for freedom in a Super Bowl ad.

A Pepsi spokeswoman explained that the can was launched in association with Fashion Week because they are giving people "the skinny," or "inside scoop," on events that occur during the fashion fest. "[It's] the inside source as it relates to style and design," she said. "Skinny," she adds, is more about the style of the can, than any "other implications."

The new skinny can is a svelte 6 inches tall without heels. Yet it will still weigh in at 12 ounces like its more-zaftig predecessor (which will still be available, the company assures). The Pepsi spokeswoman said a four-pack of the new cans will cost $1.99 -- roughly the same cost to buy four of the regular cans depending where you shop. Not that it's any consolation to organizations such as NEDA. Grefe reminded the soft-drink giant that women of all body types should be confident in their individuality and beauty.

"PepsiCo's comments are both thoughtless and irresponsible," she said. "Their shameful misdirection is further exemplified by tying the launch of this offensive marketing campaign to Fashion Week, where women's body types are atypical at best ... and unhealthy as to be fatal at worst."

Branding wonks have praised the sleek design while cringing at the old "thin is in" message.

Pepsi Skinny has the potential to tick off a substantial demographic. Nearly 6% of American women will develop either anorexia, bulimia or a binge-eating disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. And that's not including those who know the suffererers and the generally outraged now taking umbrage in the blogosphere.

"Same old story -- aspirational, looks-oriented advertising with a thin layer of faux-empowerment on top," wrote Slate. "If you're confident on the inside, you'll be skinny on the outside, or something. Huh?"

All we can say is that if PepsiCo is thinking of a new skinny bag for its Fritos corn chips to celebrate "slim and attractive," it might want to go back to the drawing board.

This story was updated at 5:40 pm. on February 11, 2011 to include the pricing information on the new cans and the fact that they are 12 ounces, as well as comment from Pepsi's spokeswoman.
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