Franklin James Cook

Social Media ‘Backwash’ Stops Distasteful Pepsi Ad

In Advocacy, Media on December 4, 2008 at 8:57 pm

[Editor’s note: Links in this post lead to pages that include a graphic depiction of suicide.]

ORIGINAL POST — A post today at “Global Idea Network,” Advertising Age’s blog, shares a glimpse of the backstory of Pepsi’s decision to abandon publication of an advertisement for a one-calorie cola beverage that shows a “lonely calorie” graphically killing itself using multiple methods of suicide.

“Here’s how fast and furious social media works,” writes blogger Chris Abraham.

The [original item about the offensive ad] was posted on Ad Age at 4:36 p.m. EST on Dec. 2. I read it and Tweeted at 6:16 p.m. EST the same day. And then I received [an] e-mail from [B. Bonin Bough, PepsiCo’s Director of Social Media] at 5:21 p.m. on Dec. 4.

Here’s an excerpt from Bough’s email:

“I saw your tweet and I just wanted to make sure I responded personally. We agree this creative is totally inappropriate; we apologize and please know it won’t run again. Also, thanks for the feedback and the Digg, it is important to discuss these types of issues. My best friend committed suicide and this is a topic very close to my heart. So again I offer my deepest apologies.”

Abraham concludes, “The lesson here is that social media has eyes everywhere and the network to make sure that advertisers can no longer hide stuff in niche markets.”

There is a word in intelligence about just this thing, and it relates to messaging and propaganda: “backwash.” Social media makes backwash inevitable. Here’s another one from intelligence: “blowback.” Backwash leads to blowback.

If anyone would like write to Pepsi to thank them for pulling the ad, you can do so at

PepsiCo Americas Beverages
Massimo F. d’Amore
Chief Executive Officer
700 Anderson Hill Road
Purchase, NY 10577
Fax: 914-253-2070

UPDATE (12/5/2008): Here’s more of the backstory, in an item posted on James Farrar’s blog “On Sustainability” at ZDNet, titled “Pepsico Saved from Suicide Campaign by Twitter?“.

[The abridged URL for this post is]

  1. […] Social Media ‘Backwash’ Stops Distasteful Pepsi Ad « Suicide Prevention News and Comment […]

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