PepsiCo once again is learning the risks of celebrity partnerships after an ad for Mountain Dew was criticized for portraying racial stereotypes and making light of violence toward women.
The soda and snack-food company said it immediately pulled the 60-second spot after learning that people found it was offensive. The ad was part of a series developed by African-American rapper Tyler, The Creator, and depicted a battered white woman on crutches being urged to identify a suspect out of a lineup of black men.
A goat character known as Felicia is included in the lineup and makes threatening comments to the woman, such as “Ya better not snitch on a playa” and “Keep ya mouth shut.”
The woman eventually screams “I can’t do this, no no no!” and runs away. The word “do” is in apparent reference to the soft drink’s “Dew It” slogan.
Mountain Dew, known for its neon color and high caffeine content, generally is marketed to younger men and sometimes attempts to have edgier ads. But the controversy over the company’s latest spot illustrates the fine line that companies must walk when trying to be hip.
“For brands that are going after a young demographic, they’re always walking that fine line between getting in trouble and appealing to their audience,” said Laura Ries, president of Ries & Ries, a marketing firm based in Atlanta.
PepsiCo Inc., based in Purchase, N.Y., apologized in a statement and said it understood how the ad could be offensive.