The generally family-friendly PepsiCo learned this lesson recently with their most recent advertisements depicting a very, very lonely calorie committing suicide. The German advertising agency, BBDO Dusseldorf created the risky advertisements which were aimed to emphasize the single calorie in Pepsi Max. Unfortunately, in exploring a new creative path, PepsiCo stepped over the line, offending consumers and stirring up painfully memories for many. Surprisingly, this isn't the first time a company has tried to use the concept of suicide in their advertisements. Looking back a couple years ago, General Motors had a similar experience when they created a commercial in which a robot nearly committed suicide by jumping off a bridge. GM however edited the commercial in order to be more sensitive to their consumers.
Pepsi has played it safe in recent years, which makes this advertisement especially risky. Apparently, it was too much of a risk. In response to Chris Abraham, a blogger for Ad Age who was unhappy with the advertisements, Pepsi apologized saying, "We agree this creative is totally inappropriate; we apologize and please know it won't run again." Fortunately, the company knows how far is too far.
Although Pepsi stopped running the advertisements, I can't help but wonder if the controversial advertisements were meant to be just that - controversial. perhaps they are thinking along the lines of the entertainment industry in which it is often said, "There is no such thing as bad publicity. I suppose depending on the eventual outcome and consumer opinion, these advertisements could increase brand and product recall which, if viewed in a good light, would be wonderful for Pepsi.