Pepsi Apologizes on Twitter for "Suicide" Ad by BBDO

pepsi_max_31.jpgPepsiCo has apologized via a Twitter message for an ad for Pepsi Max which features a "calorie" creature attempting to commit suicide. The ad, from BBDO Dusseldorf, features a blue, bean-shaped character simultaneously shooting himself in the head, with a noose round his neck, and poison in his other hand. The bean is supposed to be "one very very very lonely calorie." BNET readers were informed about the bizarre ad a couple of days ago.

Twitter user Christine Lu wrote a long series of angry tweets about how her own family had been impacted by suicide, according to ZDNet. Sample post:

pepsi: you want to push the envelope? try something that doesn't remind me of my sister killing herself a month after her own wedding.
Huw Gilbert, Senior Manager for Communications at Pepsico, posted these replies:
@christinelu Huw from Pepsi here. We agree this creative is totally inappropriate; we apologize and please know it won't run again. #pepsi
@christinelu @huwgilbert posted our response. My best friend committed suicide - this is a topic very close to my heart. My deepest apologies.
Christine replied, but noted that BBDO was nowhere to be seen on the issue:
Thank you to @boughb and @huwgilbert for having the guts to get on Twitter on behalf of Pepsi and give us an update on the suicide ad
No thanks to @bbdo who has zero comment on why they thought suicide by slashing wrists, hanging and bullet through head was good for #pepsi
(Note to BBDO CEO Andrew Robertson: Having your client appear to be faster than you at social media doesn't look good.) UPDATE: A source tells me Pepsi asked to handle this situation because it approved the ad in the first place, so BBDO is taking a back seat to its client. Pepsi's Gilbert also said the suicide illustrations were used only one time in one publication before being pulled.

The episode is reminiscent of Johnson & Johnson's apology and retraction of its Motrin Moms ad, which suggested that trendy baby slings could hurt your back and neck. Twittering moms went berserk over the ad and the company eventually pulled it and recanted.

(BNET's take: In hindsight, was the Motrin Moms ad really all that offensive? Nope. Corporate Twitter apologies are a fad because most advertisers are afraid of a technology they don't yet fully understand. The really interesting bit will be when a company gets on Twitter and defends its ads in the face of criticism.)