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So “that” Pepsi ad staring Kendall Jenner certainly attracted plenty of “attention” earlier this week. The cynic in me wonders if they might be secretly chuffed to have achieved such notoriety in such a short space of time – there’s no such thing as bad publicity?  [I don’t think that’s necessarily the case in this situation – but that’s not the point of this post].

What I’m interested in, is the process that brands and their agencies go through to generate campaigns. Anyone who’s worked in advertising knows how much back and forward goes into creating a big brand activation like Pepsi’s effort. And yet in this case, after all the hard work and countless reviews, the resulting ad generates so much negative feedback that the brand elects to pull it after a matter of hours. And publicly apologises that it had “missed the mark”.

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Few companies have caused quite such a stir (so quickly) as Pepsi, but other brands produce ads every day of the week which completely miss the mark. My sense is that they get stuck in a media bubble, with a disconnect (i.e. lack of empathy) between the brand/agency team and people in the real world. I think all of us who work in media circles should be super aware of this after the Brexit vote.

It doesn’t have to be this way

Social media offers brands the opportunity to test and learn. How might our audience react? Are there some angles which we didn’t think about? Is there a way to get a third opinion?

It’s not like brands and agencies don’t test their work – they run all sorts of panels and pre-test groups. But perhaps that entire framework is stuck inside the same bubble. A bubble so large that it’s hard to see it’s a bubble, resulting in something of an Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome? (I’m doing well to resist a bubble/ fizzy drink pun here).

So how about extending the tried and tested methods and pushing your concept to a small, but more diverse audience? Dip a toe in the fizzy drink water first, instead of diving straight in.

For large campaigns which (like Pepsi) are clearly, CLEARLY going to be controversial, this should become an integral part of the pre-test process. “Folks, we ran this ad to 5,000 people on Facebook and well, they’re not really loving the whole Pepsi = world peace vibe…”

In short, test and learn no longer needs to be the mantra of just the social media team.

I’d love to hear if your organisation uses social media to test ad campaigns?

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