In today’s digitally connected world, display ads have become integral to marketing strategies for businesses across industries. However, not all digital display ads succeed in achieving their objectives. Some fail miserably, leading to negative brand consequences, while others fail to make an impact.

Here is the ad I am talking about:

The Kendall Jenner Pepsi Ad Debacle 

In April 2017, Pepsi released a controversial digital display ad featuring Kendall Jenner, a famous model and television personality. The ad depicted Jenner leaving a photo shoot to join a protest, eventually handing a can of Pepsi to a police officer, seemingly solving the tension between protesters and law enforcement. The ad sparked an immediate backlash, with many accusing Pepsi of trivializing critical social issues and protests. Pepsi quickly pulled the ad and apologized, but the damage to its brand reputation was done.

So, what went wrong with this digital display ad? Let’s explore the reasons behind its failure.

Insensitivity to Cultural and Social Context 

One of the most significant factors contributing to the failure of the Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad was its insensitivity to cultural and social contexts. The ad was perceived to be co-opting the Black Lives Matter movement, a highly sensitive topic at that time. The ad’s attempt to use a serious issue to promote a product failed to resonate with the audience, leading to a significant backlash against the brand.

Lesson Learned?

Brands and marketers must consider the cultural and social context when creating a digital display ad. If their ad is seen as insensitive or offensive, it will fail to achieve its objectives and damage the brand’s reputation.

Misalignment with Target Audience

The Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad failed to connect with its target audience, as it tried to appeal to a younger, more socially conscious population. However, the ad’s tone-deaf portrayal of social issues turned it away from its target audience.

Lesson Learned? 

Brands and marketers must understand their target audience and create ads that resonate with their values and beliefs. Misaligned messaging will only lead to disinterest or, worse, backlash. 

Lack of Clear Message

The Pepsi ad tried to convey a message of unity and peace, but its execution left viewers confused and unsure of the intended message. The ad’s lack of a clear message contributed to its failure, as it left room for interpretation and misinterpretation.

Lesson Learned?        

Brands and marketers must know that a successful digital display ad must have a clear, concise, and easily understood message. They must ensure that their ad communicates its message effectively to avoid confusion and potential backlash.

Overemphasis on Celebrity Endorsements

The Pepsi ad heavily relied on Kendall Jenner’s celebrity status to draw attention. While celebrity endorsements can sometimes be influential, they should not overshadow the ad’s message or purpose. In this case, the focus on Jenner may have detracted from the ad’s intended message and contributed to its failure.

Lesson Learned?     

Brands and marketers must use celebrity endorsements wisely and ensure they support the ad’s message and purpose rather than detract from it.

Poor Timing

The release of the Pepsi ad coincided with heightened social unrest and numerous protests across the United States. As a result, the ad’s tone-deaf portrayal of protests was seen as insensitive and out of touch.

Lesson Learned?

Brands and marketers must be aware of current events and consider how their ads might be perceived in the context of the broader social climate. Poorly timed ads can lead to negative consequences for the brand.

The Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad failure offers valuable lessons for marketers looking to create compelling digital display ads. They can avoid making similar mistakes in their campaigns by understanding the factors contributing to their failure. Here are the key takeaways from this campaign:

  • Being sensitive to cultural and social context
  • Aligning the ad with the target audience’s values
  • Conveying a clear message
  • Using celebrity endorsements wisely
  • Considering the timing of the ad’s release

In addition, it’s crucial to remember that not every digital display ad campaign will be a resounding success. Marketers must learn from successful and unsuccessful campaigns to continually refine their marketing strategy and create more impactful ads in the future. Moreover, they should monitor the ad’s performance and gather feedback from the audience. This information can help them identify areas for improvement and ensure that the digital display ads resonate with their target audience. 

While the Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad serves as a cautionary tale for marketers, it also offers valuable insights into what makes a digital display ad fail. By understanding and addressing these factors, marketers can create more effective digital display ads that can achieve marketing objectives and positively impact the brand.

Wrapping Up 

The keys to a successful digital display ad campaign lie in understanding the audience, crafting a clear and compelling message, and being sensitive to the cultural and social climate. By learning from the mistakes of others, such as in the Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad case, marketers can create ads that avoid failure and drive meaningful engagement and positive results for brands.