Written by Dustin Manley
Do you ever cringe after seeing an advertisement and wonder aloud “Wow, what were they thinking”?
A couple of weeks ago, PepsiCo and Nivea really gave people something to chew on—or more accurately to gnaw, gnash, and spew out--with their tone-deaf Kendall Jenner and “White is Purity” advertisements. In truth both corporations had a strategy and plan, but without an outside perspective, they succumbed to tunnel vision.
No single individual or corporation is infallible. Adding objective second voice however, minimizes risk. PepsiCo, a corporation that is older and earns more than several countries, is no exception. They invested and developed this campaign exclusively within their in-house creative studio, Creators League, only to have it spectacularly fail upon launch.
To be honest—and forgive the pun--I find the whole situation refreshing as it reaffirms the importance of my function as a public relations professional: the sober second voice at the table. After all, if a corporation like PepsiCo can create such a crisis by not getting an outside perspective, just imagine what trouble a fresh FinTech start-up or mid-size health care company can get themselves into.
There are innumerable reasons to enlist the services of an external agency or consultant: they may offer a fresh perspective, audit campaigns strategies, provide counsel, and fill in the gaps of internal teams unable to hire in-house.
Their valuable characteristic though is that they care, but they don’t care that much. In other words, they can be objective.
Entrepreneurs, executives, and employees care; however, it is too often to the point of carelessness. As a result, business decisions and creative processes get cultivated in echo chambers making companies tone-deaf to what anyone else would register as a blaring siren. An external consultant or agency however, has no issue in asking questions, illuminating insipid ideas, or exhaustively explaining the consequences of pursuing a poorly thought out campaign.
They offer hard truths and objectivity; advice that is hard to find within.
Mistakes are inevitable, but the consequences in our social and digital media environment may be immediate and crippling. PepsiCo will no doubt recover from its recent campaign but will be wearing a black eye for quite some time and undoubtedly have this scenario used as a case study for years to come. For any other smaller company however, this could easily spell the end.