Corporate partnerships have been a mainstay of American business practices since J.P. Morgan and the Vanderbilt family helped lay the groundwork for what we now know as the Edison Electric Light Co. From entertainment empires like AEG (Anschutz Entertainment Group) to sports powerhouses like the NFL, the detail involved in partnering with these mega organizations is equal parts simple yet meticulous. After all, becoming a preferred vendor or partner can mean millions of dollars in revenue and exposure, which explains why the “beverage wars” for placement and partnerships are among some of the most competitive in the business. With CocaCola outpacing it’s #1 competitor Pepsi at 2-1 margin it’s also clear why contractual product placement has become a standard component in most deals.
So what happens when one party “forgets” their part of the deal? While no two cases are the same, one would safely guess that it involves a lot of legalese, a little finger pointing and at the very least a sternly worded memorandum. In the case of Arby’s and Pepsi however, it resulted in a self-deprecating yet perfectly orchestrated mea culpa.
It all started with Arby’s new tagline “we have the meats”. As the creative focus moved toward the core menu items, it shifted away from the complimentary counterparts (like beverages) and the perfectly orchestrated deal points that traditionally accompany them. According to Rob Lynch, Chief Marketing Officer and Brand President for Arby’s, “the contract with Pepsi simply slipped everybody’s minds”. When Pepsi politely informed Arby’s that they were still “one commercial short of their contractual obligation”, it appeared to be a recipe for disaster. Especially when coupled with the fact that Arby’s final spot had been approved and completed some six months earlier. “To go in [to the agency] after we shot them and shoehorn something in is like the worst client move you could ever make,” Mr. Lynch said.
Prepared for the worst but hoping for the best however, he handed complete creative control to the agency and empowered them to come up with a viable solution. The result? A perfect balance of humor, authenticity and regret, genuine enough to achieve the directive yet, “sticky” enough to become one of the most celebrated spots of the year. A “big idea” that hits every facet of the S.U.C.C.E.S.s model by exploiting the very elements it embraces. Roberto Rios, chief marketing officer for PepsiCo’s food service division agreed, “we applaud Arby’s unconventional approach to marketing and when they came to us with this idea, we thought it would be a fun, creative way to highlight our partnership”.
In addition to highlighting the competitive advantage trust builds between organizations, the spot also capitalizes on the transparency and reciprocity valued by today’s consumers. You be the judge…will you accept the apology?
See Which Major Restaurants Serve Coca-Cola Vs. Pepsi
Arby’s Forgets Advertising Deal With Pepsi, Makes Apology Ad Entirely About Pepsi
The Only Lasting Competitive Advantage Is Extreme Trust