Did you Forget Something?

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.

coke v. pepsi at restaurants_02

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?

References:

Historic Collaborations
http://images.businessweek.com/ss/08/11/1121_famous_partnerships/2.htm

See Which Major Restaurants Serve Coca-Cola Vs. Pepsi
http://www.businessinsider.com/restaurants-that-serve-coke-vs-pepsi-2013-12#ixzz3LAoMqKRL

Arby’s Forgets Advertising Deal With Pepsi, Makes Apology Ad Entirely About Pepsi
http://blogs.wsj.com/cmo/2014/12/01/arbys-pepsi-advertisement/

The Only Lasting Competitive Advantage Is Extreme Trust
http://www.fastcompany.com/1809038/only-lasting-competitive-advantage-extreme-trust

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8 Responses to Did you Forget Something?

  1. Dominic says:

    Kristal:

    I’m a big believer in addressing things outfight. Why hide? Most times magic happens when you make a little fun of the situation. But this campaign took this thought a step further by reminding consumers about Pepsi traits and then performed a “tie in” at the end. I have to say, well done to the creative peeps involved here, this really was a home run.

    • Kristal Shipp says:

      Thanks for your feedback Dominic. I loved the transparency and self deprecation in this ad but the fact that they were actually able to properly promote the product while doing it, was priceless. I’m officially a fan!

  2. Christopher says:

    OK, welp, I love this. I guarantee a spot like that generates more interest than a throwaway ad that features Pepsi in some typical way. It was a nice gesture, made good on a contract, and likely earned both companies some brand equity for its honesty and good humor.

    This reminds me of the product placement you’re starting to see frequently in comedy shows. 30Rock was always great about this, but I was watching Jerry Seinfeld’s “Coffee in Cars with Comedians” internet show, and I was struck by how humorously he approached his Acura product placements. For an internet show with virtually no other advertising revenue, I thought it was hilarious the way he parodied the car company. He repeatedly mocked their appearance on the show; it was very “Well, I have to do this, so here goes…” I love that TV people feel comfortable enough taking shots at BIG AD while still collecting the paycheck. It still annoys me when I see blatant advertising in movies. Tina Fey, Jerry Seinfeld, and now, apparently, Arby’s are real trendsetters! I love it.

    • Kristal Shipp says:

      I completely agree Christopher. Poking fun at yourself has always been memorable but doing it in a way that actually achieves the intended goal is a double entendre rarely achieved correctly. It’s clear the blatant product placement of the 80’s now requires a slightly more subtle touch to be effective. Glad to see someone is on the right track!

  3. Ryan says:

    Kristal,

    So funny you wrote about this. A few guys at work were talking about Arbys new TV spots and how much we like them. I had not seen this one yet, but I definitely love it. I think it it becoming more and more common for brands to be down to earth and laugh at themselves. I think social media plays a big role and we can see some of that from some in the insights in Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.

    • Kristal Shipp says:

      Looks like it’s working. I thought I noticed more commercials but figured it was because of the post. Glad to see I’m not the only one. I haven’t checked out their social media but I’ll be sure to do so now that you’ve mentioned it. Thanks for the heads up!

  4. Graham says:

    Ha! We have Pepsi – that’s awesome! What a smart (and ridiculously inexpensive) advertisement. I’m surprised Pepsi went for it because it did little to strengthen either brand. I often wonder if these ads do very much for the bottom line but since the goal of the ad was really to satisfy a contractual obligation I guess it doesn’t really matter. I have to appreciate that Arby’s didn’t try to hide the fact that they neglected to make the other tv spot. It could have been swept under the rug with a lackluster ad but they didn’t do that – they owned the mistake outright and that’s a strong statement about the leadership of the organization. Nice post Kristal! You’ve got a gem here.

    • Kristal says:

      Thanks Graham, the ad was definitely one of my favorites on the year. Using Ving Rhames to provide a James Earl Jones – Darth Vadar-esq element to it made it all the better. It definitely increased Arby’s brand equity for me and yes, I’d actually order a Pepsi just because of the ad. LOL