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Cardi B And Pepsi’s New “Culture In, Brand Out” Marketing

Cardi B has become the central figure surrounding Pepsi advertisements this past year. The rapper made her first appearance in a 2019 Pepsi Superbowl ad alongside Steve Carrell and Lil John. The commercial itself confronted the age old issue of when you order Coke at a restaurant and they ask you, “is Pepsi okay?” The ad itself is quite surprising, as it insinuates that Coke is always a customers first choice, and they only go for Pepsi when there’s no other options. However, as the ad progresses, all of the famous guest stars boast about how Pepsi is MORE than okay, it’s better. The concept of confronting an issue within your branding in an actual commercial is risky, but Todd Kaplan, Pepsi’s Vice President of Marketing says that the ad was just step one in moving towards a direction of “culture in, brand out” in terms of advertisements. 

“Rather than start with your brand objective, start with what’s happening in culture by listening to the consumer, looking at cultural truths and insights, and saying, ‘OK, there is a thing that is bubbling up here.’ Start with that and then ladder up and say, ‘what would Pepsi’s point of view be on that,’” Kaplan discussed on his podcast.  

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Looking at “cultural truths” was the root of the Superbowl ad that seemingly places Coke as a priority for most soft drink consumers. The “large cultural truth” was the fact that Pepsi is often a second choice, but instead of ignoring that truth and working around it in an attempt to change that narrative, the company tackled it head on, telling it’s audience that they know Pepsi may not be you’re number one, but it definitely is an all star number two. “Why don’t we take this truth head-on and say is Pepsi OK? Yeah, why the hell wouldn’t it be OK. Of course it’s OK,” Kaplan says. 

This sort of self-awareness actually attracts consumers more. The average customer wants major corporations to look at the issues that everyone is clearly talking about, and to embrace them in order to change them, as opposed to just ignoring them. If there’s anything the public hates, it’s being left in the dark, so when a major corporation comes out with an advertisement that says, “we see you making memes about us, and you’re not necessarily wrong” consumers are going to embrace that type of honesty. 

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Adding superstar Cardi B into the mix just makes it that much more successful. Cardi has become one of the most recognizable faces and personalities in the music industry to date. You don’t have to like or even know any of her music, but you definitely know who she is. That’s why the decision to place her in an advertisement that’s embracing the “culture in, brand out” concept is so smart. Cardi’s personality is already very marketable, and has become a major part of modern day culture. Her many catch-phrases and memorable quotes pulled from her many Instagram video rants, spread on timelines like wildfires. Putting her in an advertisement, and including those catchphrases that everyone already knows and loves, all while saying “Pepsi is more than OK” is what draws consumers in. 

“The rapper is unapologetic [and] comfortable in her own skin, which I think in a lot of ways manifests what we are trying to do with Pepsi,” says Kaplan.

Additionally, with the holiday’s finally arriving, it’s safe to say that Coke holds a pretty high stock in terms of holiday marketing. They’ve really embraced and claimed the classic Santa imaging on their cans, and even the iconic polar bear, so much so that people often always associate Santa branding with Coke right away. Another example where Coke is seen as the primary and Pepsi takes the secondary role. So, Pepsi continued to do what they’ve successfully been doing all year in terms of advertisements and brought the culture in. Cardi returned for another campaign that also mentions the Grammy’s, making Pepsi the image for the holidays, and the biggest night in music, all in one shot. By branding for the Grammys as well, Pepsi is bringing one marketing campaign from month to month, which also will smoothly transition them to the Superbowl in February, which as we all know, is one of Pepsi’s biggest nights for advertising, as they sponsor the entire halftime performance.


Twitter to Ban All Political Ads

As social media rapidly replaces traditional journalistic forms of disseminating information, regulators have been slow to catch up with the new form of communication, as the appropriate legal boundaries on free speech on social media platforms remain an open question. Recently, Facebook has drawn criticism for allowing demonstrably false political advertisements to run on its platform, and the company’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, defended the decision to do so by citing free speech concerns. In an apparent response to Zuckerberg’s decision, Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey announced that all political ads from around the world would be banned on Twitter, neatly avoiding the problem of politicians spreading disinformation through sponsored posts. Though Dorsey didn’t mention Zuckerberg or Facebook by name, it’s pretty clear that the company’s decision was made in the context of its rival’s position of allowing politicians to lie using advertisements, and it effectively functions as a commentary on Facebook’s policy.

Already, politicians have taken advantage of Facebook’s almost-nonexistent restrictions on paid political speech by running advertisements that contain falsehoods. The Trump campaign, for instance, ran an ad on Facebook falsely accusing rival Joe Biden of “[offering] Ukraine $1 billion to fire the prosecutor investigating a company affiliated with his son.” In response, the Biden campaign asked Facebook to remove the ad from its website, citing a lack of evidence supporting that claim, and Facebook declined to do so, reiterating its policy and defending it by arguing that removing political advertisements constitutes censorship. Elizabeth Warren, one of the leading Democrats in the race for the presidential nomination, ran an ad falsely suggesting Mark Zuckerberg endorsed Donald Trump in order to draw attention to Facebook’s political ad policy and point out how easily it can be abused. The Trump campaign has already spent millions of dollars on Facebook ads containing disinformation, including video ads that have been rejected by CNN and MSNBC for containing falsehoods, which nevertheless have been seen by millions of people.

“A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet. Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimized and targeted political messages on people. We believe this decision should not be compromised by money.” — Jack Dorsey

Recently, Mark Zuckerberg appeared before Congress with the intent of discussing his crypto-currency service, Libra, but instead found himself being grilled by lawmakers over Facebook’s stance on misinformation. One exchange which grabbed headlines recently involved freshman Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who questioned Zuckerberg about the boundaries of the company’s restrictions on ads, and posed a hypothetical question: under Facebook’s policy, would she be allowed to run ads in Republican districts claiming that her Republican opponents had endorsed the Green New Deal? Zuckerberg replied that he didn’t know, but that she probably would be allowed to do so. Facebook doesn’t run ads for political campaigns through independent fact-checkers except in rare circumstances, so in all likelihood, Ocasio-Cortez would be permitted to run such an ad if she so chose.

Recently, Zuckerberg revealed that political ads make up only 0.5% of the company’s revenue, suggesting that banning all political ads on the site would have little impact on Facebook’s bottom line. Nonetheless, Facebook remains steadfast in its position, even after receiving significant controversy from the media, Congress, and the general public alike. Zuckerberg also recently drew criticism for having lunch with Republican politicians and conservative commentators, a decision that he defended by stressing the importance of getting along with people from different political stripes. In an apparent rebuke of Zuckerberg’s take on political speech, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey opposed the idea that allowing political ads to run indiscriminately is necessary to avoid censorship and ensure free speech, saying “A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet. Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimized and targeted political messages on people. We believe this decision should not be compromised by money.” This difference in opinion is at the core of the argument about free speech on social media platforms, and may very well one day manifest in the form of regulations about using advertising to spread misinformation on social media platforms, like the ones that already exist for other forms of media.


Yelp to Introduce Personalized Recommendations

The popular website and app Yelp has long been used as a source for those interested in checking out new eateries and shops. And the app is about to become even more useful, as Yelp has announced they would overhaul the app to customize recommendations based on a user’s profile.