You Talkin’ to Me? Wait, Really?

That moment of confusion has happened to some of us. A moment where an advertising campaign goes wrong in so many ways when you realize, ‘Wait, you were trying to talk to me. Dear God.’ Whether it was Live for Now (Pepsi) or White Is Purity (Nivea), the big idea of a campaign may seem to have a strong grasp of contemporary issues. But then its narrative has unintentionally placed the campaign’s brand into a negative light among the target audience, let alone into an arena of public outrage and late-night satire.

Nivea via HuffingtonPost

The good news? Well, people are indeed talking about your brand. Now you’re just praying that the creative team will soon receive PR reinforcements to resolve this digital firestorm. But the damage is done, and it will take more than an apologetic tweet to win over the offended. Before a brand can show itself publicly in its former glory, it now requires the agency, or a new agency, to thoroughly listen to the outrage and use it to their advantage for big idea 2.0–an idea that talks directly to your audience and rebuilds the brand to a stable image.

To some extent, this is where advertising and public relations can work together effectively. For example, the damage can be analyzed by the PR team in order to inform the creative team how to sell their brand in a manner that shows the brand being reflexive of their past actions. Indeed, advertising and public relations face different objectives when communicating to an audience. But building a big idea that incorporates PR tactics will strengthen the brand’s image while meeting the campaign’s objective.

In Vaynerchuk’s (2013) book, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, his advice in executing social media campaigns expresses a similar rhetoric to Kozinets’ research method of netnography. Both urge their readers to take time in understanding the communicative ‘nuances’ and patterns that foster from their target audience. The only difference is that Kozinets’ method is used during the consumer research phase, whereas Vaynerchuk’s advice is to inform marketers of the basics in creating content that matches the language of their audience.

One cannot really start a movement (i.e., Pepsi) or a still ill-advised notion of purity (i.e., Nivea) without having PR-like support in order to make sure that the campaign’s narrative is both creative and well-suited for its target audience. That way, when a brand reintroduces itself, it will provide some potential for the offended think, ‘Oh, you’re talkin’ to me again? [It’s] nice to see that you’ve made all of the right changes’.


Amatulli, A. (2017, April 5) Nivea Ends ‘White Is Purity’ Campaign After Widespread Backlash. HuffingtonPost. Retrieved from

Kozinets, R. (2016). Netnography. The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. doi: 10.1002/9781405165518.wbeos0782

Vaynerchuk, G. (2013). Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World. HarperCollins: New York.

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2 Responses to You Talkin’ to Me? Wait, Really?

  1. anamrodr says:

    I agree in that marketers should devote a great amount of their efforts to studying their target audience, but I would argue that they should also consider the wider reception. The Nivea campaign is targeted more towards women but any other non-White demographic can surely be impacted by the notion of “White Purity”. For Nivea’s case I think it was a matter of rethinking their Big Idea. There are issues of common sense that appear to have missed good judgement. Like the Pepsi campaign, Nivea’s is very much kept under the context of the product, and it doesn’t see the bigger picture; the undertone of the idea.
    Now after the damage is done, as you mention, collaboration between both PR and Marketing agencies should be the only resort for the brands to restore their relationship with their audience and the indirect audience; which I would define as those that are also affected by the message.

  2. sunniexyy says:

    It is important for marketing and public relations to cooperative with each other, so that a brand can gain more knowledge of the consumers’ perceptions when developing strategies and also using strategies to shape its brand image.
    As for the Live for Now advertisement of Pepsi, I feel that this brand is trying so hard to show consumers that it cares about social issues. The action is taken too fast before this brand fully understand what the social issues are about and why its care can build relationships with customers.
    Since the damage is made, it is wise for Pepsi to think about these social issues thoroughly. One solution for this brand is making some actual contributions to the social issues it talked about. It can fund relevant activities or talk to people involved in the social movement. Consumers are more willing to take in the messages when they see the actual actions.