Monday, December 8, 2008

Note to Pepsi: Suicide Isn't Ad Material

Following the recent uproar about Motrin’s ad suggesting that baby slings “hurt” moms, it was beyond discouraging to see yet another ad - this time from Pepsi - that challenged the health and well-being of consumers. In this case the group I was concerned about was teen girls and the issue was much more serious than whether or not baby slings create aches.

Pepsi Max, the one-calorie soda from Pepsi, launched a new campaign depicting a lonely “Calorie” cartoon character exploring different ways to commit suicide. Matt Creamer wrote about this ill-conceived campaign in AdAge, and at left is an example from his article.

The teen girls I know drink diet soda and are also very tuned in to advertising run by huge brands like Pepsi. And, needless to say, suicide attempts are a serious concern in the teen age group. That's why I think these ads were much worse than the Motrin ads.
Teenagers are already navigating difficult changes in their lives. They often experience loneliness and even depression. So it's shocking when an ad that is partly targeted to teen girls presents suicide as a humorous "solution" to feeling lonely.
Both Pepsi and their ad agency were seriously out of touch with the needs of their customers in putting out such a cynical and insensitive campaign. Fortunately, many customers voiced their disgust and disapproval, and Pepsi pulled the ad.
We need to be constantly aware to hold companies accountable and to keep our kids safe from these kinds of harmful messages.

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