A riot over a soda, or a discussion over a beer. – Rant, less structured than my other political posts.
Both big brands Heineken and Pepsi brought out political commercials in the last month to as usual advertise their products, but also to be ‘in with the news’ and show that they are aware of current events. From a business standpoint, it’s a big risk. If it goes well, the public will hail you as a defender of ‘good opinion’ or the like, and you will likely boom in sales, especially if the advert is sympathetic to neither side of our currently partisan politics; however, fall flat on your face and suddenly you have one side of the argument lamenting you as something awful and to be avoided, or in the worst case, both sides of the argument seeing you as worse than their opposition. Pepsi, managed to do exactly this, dragging its name through the mud in the process, whilst Heineken managed to hold itself above its head and beam as a beacon of hope to both parties in our current climate. Honestly, the advert was more unifying than any of the political leaders of the world right now. I thought it was incredible.
Let’s start with Pepsi. Pepsi released an advert trying to sell itself to the more youthful voter, and it highlighted the – mostly – left protests that have been happening in America and across Europe, mostly in response to new right-wing political leaders, in fact almost exclusively to that event. They hired Kendall Jenner to play the ‘important’ activist. Overall, you know, the message wasn’t bad. It was pushing for people to get political, and whilst that could be seen as a negative in our current climate, with its aim at youth I agree. The younger generation should get political, get invested, after all the world is in our hands next (scary thought with our current political majority). Offended, is the wrong word. There is nothing offensive in the add, it doesn’t attack anyone, and whilst there is a bit of pandering to the left its nothing to shout about. It’s neutral, mostly, and its hashtag of ‘Join the conversation’ is positive if not a little vague. The problem with the advert is that it is tone deaf, it says nothing and it is aggravatingly in your face. Let me explain.
Pepsi failed to see how fragile the current climate is, how offended and aggravated people get both on the side of anti-Social Justice, centralism and right-wing, and on the hard left. The hard left, we have seen time and time again, get offended at the slightest casting choice, lexical decision and movement within the most meaningless media, but that isn’t what angered the left, no. It was the trivialisation of protests, and whilst I disagree with how angry some people were getting over it, I can see their point. If a protest was going on and its cause was something truly cared about, the idea of a stupid Pepsi advert using it to push its poison using those ideas and images is appalling, not to mention the fact that no protest right now is peaceful like that, not in the slightest. Again, the idea is nice. It is just so off base with its audience. It annoyed the centralists, right wingers and general anti-Social Justice because of the small amount of pandering it did do, which wasn’t that big of a problem, it was one Islamic woman and an Asian dude which to be fair the company would likely have done just to keep the hard-left of its back. I digress. The right got annoyed for similar reasons to the left, oddly unifying us, just not the way Pepsi wanted.
Secondly, it has no real message. What does ‘Join the conversation’ even mean? Join what conversation? The biggest problem right now is a LACK of debate, not the lack of people joining it. The conversation about what? Social gender issues or a lack of action in the face of terrorism? Economics and Climate change or the diversity quotas? There are plenty of conversations to be had. The reason this vagueness so annoying leads on to my third point…
… It’s so in your face. This is an advert in which Pepsi is trying to use the political climate to promote its product and it’s not hidden in the slightest. Its such a corporate move that no matter your political affiliation it’s just annoying that this outsider decided to jump in and capitalise on what is really a horrible situation. No one actually wants to be so viciously fighting the other side. The hard left avoid discourse, but slowly those on the anti-Social justice side are doing the same in retaliation. It’s causing a divide with no bridge for discussion, and that climate is what Pepsi are just jumping in on and saying, ‘it’s all fine, have a Pepsi’. It’s not fine, and I think I’ll enjoy a cold coke, cheers.
Alright, Heineken. I’ve already spoken about this advert in a way that makes it seem like I think like this is a masterpiece. It’s really not. But with the recent Pepsi advert and how polarised the world is right now, this honestly felt like a breath of fresh air, if a little cliché. The advert is an experiment where two people with opposing views are pushed into a small room and given tasks. The two do not know one another’s views, allegedly, and the experiment is to see if the two will discuss their views, if first they get to know one another as human beings, not as voices for their opinions. I highly doubt it isn’t all scripted and staged, but I don’t think that actually takes away from the message, unlike many other cases in which it might. This advert succeeds where Pepsi fails, and likely because of this it will garner a lot more sales. It is safe, yes; it is neutral of course, but it has a vitality and purity that Pepsi discarded.
All of the people in the experiment are perfect stereotypes of modern day political opinions, they are exaggerated, and that is purposeful. There is no doubt that each of the paired ‘characters’ have polarising views and normally would shout at each other and ultimately hate one another. They are given the task of talking about oneself to the other person, without revealing their political views. They have to work together to build stools and a bar. They get to know each other far deeper than two people should over just ten minutes, but it works. You can see the message, and honestly, it’s far more subtle than Pepsi’s product placement in every two frames, (hyperbole, calm down), the Heineken name and bottle only show up at the end, and it is to enhance a point, not piggyback off of that point in the name of promotion.
There is an argument that has been made that the more controversial and more easily disagreeable views are sported by the white males, and that it is actually sporting the Social Justice agenda, but I whole heartedly disagree. It’s the same as a black woman seeing the advert and getting mad because she isn’t a feminist but the woman in the video was. It’s missing the point. Stop seeing race and gender and instead see the person behind that identity. That is the single best way to ensure equality, if that’s really what you want. That goes both ways, to the SJWs out there and the Anti-Social Justice people out there. Even if this fact were true, and the advert was trying to paint white males as villains, it fails. Because even if you disagree vehemently with the views sported by them, as I do the feminist and climate change characters, the message isn’t about those views. It is about the people holding them that manage to sit down, have a nice cold beer, and talk. Just. Talk. IT’s the same message as Pepsi, but far better implemented.
For starters it shows, not shouts its point. It doesn’t use that agenda to then piggyback its product, it instead uses that product to enhance the argument, and finally it isn’t vague. It clearly uses points and opinions that people hold nowadays, the same opinions that are so at odds with one another, and that refuse to have a proper discourse either in the media or on the streets. It doesn’t trivialise the horrific protests going on across the world right now and it panders to no one. It states its point, shows that argument in action, and uses its product to enhance that argument.
It works so much better, and gets so many more people on its side. It is a neutral political advert that utilises polarised views to advertise its product, but not in a completely shameless and off-base fashion.
In the end, I am stunned that a corporation actually understood the world around it, and was sensitive around a subject that honestly is extremely delicate and difficult to advertise around. Normally, I’d tell corporations to screw off when it comes to politics, with their backhand deals and such. But to this? To this, I say hats off to you. You German Brewing Nutters. Although…
I think I’d prefer to chat over a glass of Peroni.
Pepsi: ‘This is a huge PR disaster!’
United Airlines: ‘Hold my beer.’