Friday, April 7, 2017

What Diesel did right, what Pepsi got wrong - of brands and changing times

Nostalgia perfume from Watchmen graphic novel
Pepsi was so grilled about her Kendall Jenner fiasco of a TVC, it had to withdraw it and offer an apology. That Pepsi is not the first - or last - brand to capitalize on social change as a way to sell its offering is a given. Only recently, Diesel did the same with a David LaChapelle visual extravaganza starring Ukrainian ballet dancer Sergei Polunin. Polumin's story is far from the Kardashian-Jenner reality star universe. This itself, is a starting point of divergence between the two brands.
Plumin is credible and when he does his pirouette at the beginning of the ad he is the total antithesis of anything Jenner represents. He is real, gut-wrenching, and this already makes his stamp on the ad.
Jenner lacks the ability to convey such emotions - no shame, not everyone has acting abilities even if the camera loves them (and necessarily the camera does love Jenner).
Then comes the supporting cast - the Pepsi ad made sure to portray Jenner (a late-comer at the manifestation) as the only star in the ad. There was an Asian chello player and a hijab-wearing nose-ring sporting young female photographer both of whom remain nameless so as to make Jenner the de facto leader of the movement (why? how come?).
Diesel? "Along with Polunin, the performers include artist Stefan Meier; transsexual model Laith de la Cruz; androgynous queer artist Karis Wilde; 2016 parallel and horizontal bar Olympic silver medalist Danell Leyva; makeup artist/drag star Raja; and transgender model Octavia Hamlett." There is so many of them that even many people did not know Polunin to begin with - he is not as known as Jenner except in some ballet-appreciating circles. But the more the merrier indeed for Diesel.
Then, apart from the flag-bearer, another major difference. Diesel speaks - directly and without hesitation - of the causes they support: Gay marriage, anti-racism, with a rainbow-colored-inflatable-tank to combat lack of inclusion, you name it and it's there. Pepsi was for - errr - not sure what. The signs of the manifestations said things like "join our conversation" and other very vague emblems which stood for nothing and celebrated no one's cause (the generic peace sign, one sign that had "love" on it), and on the contrary managed to ruff the feathers of a lot of real-life activists such as Martin Luther King's daughter who tweeted "If only Daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi" along with an image of her father being arrested by the police in reference to Jenner giving the cop in the ad a can of Pepsi to diffuse the tension.
If one watches the Pepsi ad, the product is plugged everywhere and anywhere. The whole purpose of the ad is to sell the cola - nothing more nothing less. When compared to Diesel - and even if the whole cast was dressed from head to toe in the brand there was never throughout the dazzling visuals any active effort to show the product, the brand, the logo or anything else. Every single frame was there to support the concept, not the items the brand itself eventually sells (at least not directly, one of course gets that as a by-product of the ad).
There were a lot of people calling the Pepsi ad "tone-deaf" yet no one ever said such a thing about Diesel, which brings us to the credibility factor. Diesel is a brand which has been pushing social issues for a long time, Pepsi in the meantime was concentrating on stars (Jenner, even in dipped in vague social sauce was still - at the end of the day - a star). So even with a cast full of activists (some of whom's fame does not translate outside specific circles) the focus was so much about the message rather than a single lead with - of course - LaChapelle's over the top aesthetics.
"Live bolder live louder live for now" seemed not to resonate with the public, "Make love not walls" was an immediate rallying cry.