Clearly, the decision-makers at Pepsi thought the recent Kendall Jenner ad was a slam-dunk winner. The ad depicts young people from various backgrounds leaving the grind of their day-to-day lives to join a protest movement. Kendall Jenner walks away from her modeling shoot and ends up handing a Pepsi to a cop. Yeah, that’s super cheesy, and many people hate the ad for co-opting recent protests to sling sugar water.
As bad as this ad is, it’s not even close to being the most tasteless of offensive ad in the history of advertising. Starting with slide #10, you’ll see that ads can go much lower in concept. Slide #6 is disgraceful.
10. Fashion Addicted Stoned Models
Many young girls dream of growing up and becoming fashion models. This ad goes out of its way to show girls why they should aspire to another profession. Someone must have been sniffing something illegal when this ad was conceived. These models look like drug-addled zombies headed for life as washed-up former fashion darlings.
9. Raunchy Joystick Fun
Back in the day, SEGA was desperate to attract young men to its game system. They also had to introduce this new-fangled joystick thingy to guys seeking something different. Their solution was to tie joystick use to that “other” fun activity guys tend to do in their bedrooms when no one is looking.
8. Husband Punishes Wife Over Coffee
Heaven forbid! The little woman made the mistake of buying a brand of coffee not approved by the king of the castle. My stars! What is a caring, loving, responsible husband to do when something like this happens?
This ad shows men exactly how to handle wives who make such a careless error in judgment.
7. Soap Washes Away The Black
These two little girls in this vintage ad are hanging out together. Isn’t it sweet how two children from different backgrounds can become friends and playmates? The mop-topped white child innocently wonders why her darker-skinned friend doesn’t look as clean as she does. Soap washes away dirt, so…
6. Restaurant Riffs On People’s Temple Tragedy
What was this Mexican restaurant thinking when they approved this ad? First, never associate your family restaurant with a cult. Second, this ad has the gall to make light of the Jonestown tragedy where innocent men, women, and children died. Third, this dark humor doesn’t put people in the mood for happy hour.
5. Mind-Blowing Burger
Burger King often has typical ads that range from bland to slightly weird (the Burger King mascot, amirite?). However, every once in a while its ads deviate from the norm. This ad has a clear double meaning, and its cheeky hidden message is downright salacious! Maybe these long burger sandwiches tame wild urges.
4. Fat Shaming And Husband Cheating
Ashley Madison is notorious for being an online portal for those seeking relationships outside of marriage. Obviously, they don’t want to come right out and use the “cheating” word, so they use tongue-in-cheek humor in ads. This fat shaming ad takes low aim at wives, and people who are obese. Surely, their male customers are all 10s, right?
3. Sinful Enjoyment Of Ice Cream
Antonio Federici makes premium quality Italian-style ice cream. For some unknown reason, they decided to push the buttons of the Catholic church and its faithful followers. These ads featuring a pregnant nun and two priests push boundaries of sexual innuendo and marketing to the absolute edge. The nun ad was banned in some areas.
2. His Afro Isn’t Civilized
There was a time when it was perfectly acceptable to use the “dark savage” image in ads selling all sorts of products. Thankfully, that time has long since passed. Apparently, Nivea and its ad agency didn’t get the memo. Choosing to wear and afro or beard is a perfectly civilized way to express individuality.
1. Rough Game Play
How do you get wholesome young men to wear your cool casual slacks? Hey, let’s appeal to their desire to play the catch a hot girl game. This 1960s ad sends a message that young women enjoy being grabbed and herded into a circle of lustful guys. Acting rapey is just boys being boys.
There’s no doubt in any one’s mind that Pepsi made a huge error in judgment when they approved an ad that attempted to co-opt movements for social justice. Kendall Jenner can be forgiven because she’s young and still learning about the world. Besides, she doesn’t have enough clout to have creative input in the ads she appears in. At least Pepsi had good intentions.
As you see from the above examples, the Pepsi ad is in the minor leagues when it comes to being offensive. Sometimes companies take marketing risks that don’t pan out. Social media ensures bad ads get KO’d quickly.