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PepsiCo pulls Mountain Dew ad after criticism about racism

11:11 AM, May 1, 2013   |    comments
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USA TODAY - Dumb ads seem to be contagious.

Soft drink giant PepsiCo says it is pulling a highly-controversial commercial for Mountain Dew -- depicting five African-American men and a goat in a police line-up -- that has managed to offend African-Americans, women and bloggers coast-to-coast.

In the 60-second spot developed by African-American rapper Tyler, the Creator, a battered white woman on crutches is urged by an officer to identify a suspect out of a lineup of black men. A goat named Felicia is included in the lineup. The goat makes threatening remarks to the woman including, "Keep ya mouth shut." She eventually screams "I can't do this, no no no!" and runs away.

Now, the provocative commercial -- which was never meant for TV -- has been pulled.

The action comes just days after Hyundai pulled an ad parodying suicide and few weeks after McDonald's yanked a regional subway poster that parodied depressed women. And it comes several weeks after Ford killed an ad in India that depicted sexy women tied up in the back of a Ford Figo.

In a social media world, bad ads quickly rise to the top -- or fall to the bottom -- and can damage images of the world's biggest brands."There's a rush to do real-time marketing and get things to go viral," says Steve Barrett, editor of PR Week. "But in that rush, the approval process sometimes gets forgotten about."

The trade magazine Adweek broke the story online Wednesday morning. One social commentator Dr. Boyce Watkins, called it "arguably the most racist commercial in history." A PepsiCo spokesperson emailed Adweek that the video is getting taken down. "We understand how this video could be perceived by some as offensive, and we apologize to those who were offended," the statement said. "We have removed the video from all Mountain Dew channels and have been informed that Tyler is removing it from his channels as well."

The quick action is critical because Mountain Dew ranked as the nation's fourth largest carbonated soft drink in volume sales last year, reports the trade magazine Beverage Digest. In fact, the brand grew 0.6 percent in volume, which outperformed the carbonated soft drink category last year, whose sales were down 1.2 percent.

Mt. Dew, well-known for its bright, yellow color and high caffeine, is targeted at young guys.

"Over the years, PepsiCo has done an excellent job marketing this brand," says John Sicher, publisher of Beverage Digest. "It is one of the strongest brands in the U.S. beverage industry."

(Copyright © 2013 USA TODAY)

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