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Pepsi pulls Mountain Dew ad following criticism over racist content

By Candice Choi

AP Food Industry Writer

LAST UPDATED: 03:00 p.m. HST, May 01, 2013

NEW YORK » PepsiCo is once again 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, is generally marketed to younger men and sometimes attempts to have edgier ads. But the controversy over its latest spot illustrates the fine line that companies must walk when trying to be hip.

In fact, Mountain Dew also was criticized recently because of its endorsement deal with Lil Wayne, whose rap lyrics compared a rough sex act to the tortuous death of Emmett Till, a black teen who was murdered in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman. Last month, Reebok also ended its relationship with Rick Ross after he rapped about giving a woman a drug to have his way with her.

Laura Ries, president of Ries & Ries, a marketing firm based in Atlanta, said companies that want the "street cred" of a celebrity may end up losing control of the message they want to convey.

If PepsiCo had created an ad for Mountain Dew, for example, she said it might not have been considered edgy or cool. But by handing over control to a celebrity, she said the company ran the risk of having an ad that wasn't appropriate.

PepsiCo Inc., based in Purchase, N.Y., said it understood how the ad could be offensive.

"We apologize for this video and take full responsibility," the company said in an updated statement late this afternoon. "We have removed it from all Mountain Dew channels and Tyler is removing it from his channels as well."

Jen Ryan, a spokeswoman for PepsiCo, said the company learned from its consumer relations team on Tuesday that people found the ad offensive. She declined to explain the approval process for the ad but said it was never meant to run on TV.

Tyler, the Creator's raps have been criticized for being misogynistic and homophobic at times but he has also expressed support for the singer Frank Ocean, who revealed he was bisexual.

Management of Odd Future, the hip-hop collective led by Tyler, the Creator, issued a statement apologizing to anyone offended but said the ad was taken out of context. It noted the men in ad's lineup are Tyler's friends and Odd Future members.

The artist "absolutely never intended to spark a controversy about race," the statement said. "It was simply an, again, admittedly absurd story that was never meant to be taken seriously."

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whs1966 wrote:
How stupid can these overpaid "marketing geniuses" be? Everyone involved in this campaign, especially the marketing executives who approved it, should be canned.
on May 1,2013 | 09:10AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
The Church of Perpetual Outrage where everything is offensive to somebody.
on May 1,2013 | 09:32AM
copperwire9 wrote:
Go get beat up and/or raped and then decide how offensive such an ad could be. Go ahead.
on May 1,2013 | 09:57AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Drama queen speaks.
on May 1,2013 | 12:00PM
Kate53 wrote:
Rapist speaks?
on May 2,2013 | 05:51AM
hilocal wrote:
Maneki_Neko, I agree that the ad as described is both sexually and racially offensive. I've never been called a drama queen.
on May 2,2013 | 06:24AM
Ronin006 wrote:
During the last Super Bowl, there were two or three highly-acclaimed commercials that made light of violence. They may not have been against women, but it was violence nevertheless and was supposed to be funny. And that apparently is how most viewers saw it. As I recall, people in the commercials also were white. Yet, there were no reports in the media about racial stereotyping of whites or violence against anyone. So why is the Pepsi commercial being criticized for portraying racial stereotypes and making light of violence toward women?
on May 1,2013 | 09:38AM
serious wrote:
Ever see the CEO for Pepsi? It's a SHE. Why the heck they have a rapper doing a commercial is beyond me, I thought they were all in jail.
on May 1,2013 | 10:48AM
TLehel wrote:
Now THAT'S a stereotype.
on May 1,2013 | 12:06PM
mrluke wrote:
But true!
on May 2,2013 | 07:24AM
Mana07 wrote:
This is the direction we're going in Obama's America
on May 2,2013 | 05:07AM
Kate53 wrote:
Sensitivity towards victims of violence? I'm all for it.
on May 2,2013 | 05:52AM
hilocal wrote:
Kate53, I agree with you. But I don't like Obama's drone murdering of people on his kill list. Shades of the Mafia!
on May 2,2013 | 06:31AM
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