The 5 Biggest Brand Fails of 2017

This year, there were many ads which had us wondering how they could have possibly made it past a team (teams!) of creatives and brand professionals, let alone out into the world? Here are the biggest brand faux pas of 2017. Relive. Relearn. Don’t emulate.

Pepsi
Pepsi’s two-and-a-half minute spot “Live for Now,” featured Kendall Jenner leaving her modeling job to join a nondescript protest. In the ad, tensions are mounting between protesters and police—that is, until Jenner magically solves everything by opening a Pepsi for a cop. The brand quickly pulled the spot, which was released in early April, and apologized. 

The lesson learned:
the biggest brand gaff Pepsi committed with this spot was putting its product in the center of social issues while simultaneously trivializing said issues. As writer, social worker and activist Feminista Jones eloquently put it earlier this year when asked about the ad, “brands should never make light of social issues related to people’s suffering; they should, instead, focus on selling their products in ways that don’t exploit the pain and suffering of marginalized people.”

Dove
In October, Dove posted a social ad on its Facebook page that featured a black woman taking off a shirt similar to her skin tone to reveal that she had turned into a white woman wearing a shirt similar to her skin tone. After receiving the much-deserved criticism, Dove pulled the ad and apologized: “In an image we posted this week, we missed the mark in thoughtfully representing women of color and we deeply regret the offense that it has caused.

The lesson learned:
Dove—or any brand, for that matter—should never create an ad that could so easily be taken out of context, especially one that could read as having a racist message.

United
Things started off poorly for United this year when passengers took (and shared) video of a man being forcibly dragged off a plane by security when he was randomly selected — and declined — to forfeit his seat for airline maintenance workers. That alone was enough to cause an uproar on social media and tarnish the reputation of the brand, but things only got worse when CEO Oscar Munoz issued a cold, victim-blaming apology in which he praised his employees for following proper procedures. Proper procedure or not, delicate situations like this require warmth and understanding — and United Airlines wasn’t prepared to offer it.

The lesson learned:
There are two here: First, The customer is always right. Always. Second: If you make a mistake, admit to it. Every business is going to send out an erroneous or harmful tweet at some point. The ones that stand to recover easily are those that immediately and humbly admit to their mistakes, and try to make up for them.

Uber
It was a pretty disastrous year for Uber overall, with its company’s image enduring a huge series of hits for multiple reasons. But its marketing was no saving grace either and was in fact what kickstarted the downfall. Customer frustration with Uber first peaked back in January after the ride-sharing company appeared to try to profit off a taxi strike, deciding to eliminate surge pricing at JFK after the New York Taxi Workers Alliance went on strike to oppose President Trump’s immigration ban. Within a few hours, the hashtag #DeleteUber had gathered steam and people had started removing the app from their phones. Uber issued an apology and its ousted former CEO Travis Kalanick detailed the company’s stance on immigration. But the company didn’t take any further steps to support its position.

The lesson learned:
Today’s public wants to support companies whose beliefs align with their own—and skeletons won’t stay in the closet for long.

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Ad Love: My Brother’s Keeper

Just in time for Christmas, My Brother’s Keeper, President Barack Obama’s program dedicated to guiding young men of color, released a new star-studded PSA.

The ad features two well-known friends of Obama: rap star Chance The Rapper and Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry.

The video is a montage of Chance, Steph, Obama, and various young people watching a video on their respective devices. In the commercial you hear Obama’s voice say:

“I want you to know, you matter. There is nothing, not a single thing, that’s more important to the future of America than whether or not young people all across this country can achieve their dreams.”

Watch the My Brother’s Keeper ad below:

Charles Barkley Pledges $1M to Black Women in Tech

Charles Barkley was one of the most vocal and active supporters of Doug Jones in the race to defeat Roy Moore for a Senate seat in Alabama. Along with that, he showed his appreciation for the overwhelming turn-out of Black women at the polls in Alabama, by announcing that he will be making a hefty donation to fund the ambitions of Black women who wish to start up tech businesses.

“I’m announcing right now, I am pledging $1 million to black women in Alabama to start I.T. startups,” Barkley told the Inside the NBA panel while giving his reaction to the political developments in his native state.

How to Remain Relevant In Today's Digital Age - 2015 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival

In the past, Barkley was criticized for taking stances that were contrary to popular opinion in the Black community, but many of his deeds have shown him to be a charitable man.

In the past, Barkley has supported such organizations as Ante Up For Africa, ENOUGH Project, Hillsides, LIVESTRONG, Not On Our Watch, Stand Up To Cancer, United Service Organization, and the Wounded Warrior Project. Back in 2016, he pledged his commitment to Black education by donating $3 million to four HBCUs (Clark Atlanta University, Alabama A&M University, Morehouse College and his alma mater Auburn University).

John Legend Unlocks Futures

John Legend and his nonprofit, FreeAmerica, teamed up with New Profit and Bank of America to scan the country for the most impactful returning citizen social entrepreneurs. This partnership resulted in, Unlocked Futures, a 16-month accelerator for social entrepreneurs impacted by the criminal justice system.

After analyzing hundreds of applications, eight were selected including Flikshop, an app that allows you to send postcards to an inmate from your phone, tablet, or the web.

“Though 1 in 4 Americans has a criminal record, too often are formerly incarcerated individuals locked out of job opportunities because of their past. I have seen that entrepreneurship is a viable way for formerly incarcerated individuals to build sustainable livelihoods and contribute to their communities and neighborhoods,” said Legend in a statement. “We hope Unlocked Futures will serve as a powerful tool to break through the barriers to opportunity that exist for so many who have criminal records.”

Legend seems incredibly hopeful when it comes to these entrepreneurs and assisting in the process of giving them an opportunity to grow their businesses. “It’s clear that we’ve got a long way to go but, with people like you working tirelessly to change the system, I’m optimistic.”

Check out the video below, showcasing highlights from the entrepreneurs.

Nike Headquarters Names Building After Serena Williams

It has been one heck of a year for Serena Williams. She’s going to end it with a bang. Fifteen years after the tennis GOAT landed her first Nike sponsorship, she is getting her very-own building at the sportswear brand’s world headquarters.

 

 

Nike’s Serena Williams building is set to measure over one million square feet upon completion in 2019, making it the largest on its campus.

The 36-year-old new mom shared the news via Instagram, captioning her post: “What a year it has been. First a grand slam win followed by an awesome baby… then the most magical wedding. What next? How about a building!!… Nike announced yesterday that one of its new world headquarters buildings will be named after me. It will be the biggest on campus and is scheduled to open in 2019. I am honored and grateful! #TeamNike @nike”

“Serena Williams is one of the greatest athletes of all time, one of the most inspiring people in sport, and a dominating presence on and off the court,” Nike told Money. “She has won Wimbledon seven times, the US Open six times, and more Grand Slam tennis titles – 23 – than any man or woman in history.”

Today, the world’s highest-paid female athlete also teased a new shoe collaboration with the powerhouse, sporting sneakers boasting a glimmering gold heel and sole, paired with matching gold and white socks.

Here’s to an event better 2018, ‘Rena!

Google Donates $1 Million to Chance The Rapper’s SocialWorks

Today, Grammy-winning Chance The Rapper stood among executives of Google’s charitable arm to announce a $1.5 million donation to both Chicago Public Schools and Chance’s nonprofit, SocialWorks.

“Our grant with Google.org helps SocialWorks provide programming that sheds light on another pathway to success for young Chicagoans,” Justin Cunningham, executive director of SocialWorks, said in a press release. “While every student doesn’t need to become a computer scientist, understanding the basics empowers them to understand the world they live in. The opportunity to help kids code to share their music, artwork and distinct point of view is at the core of our mission and an experience we look forward to providing in classrooms across the city.”

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SocialWorks is co-founded by Chance and aims to empower youth through the arts, education and civic engagement, while fostering leadership, accessibility and positivity within the youth throughout Chicago, according to its website.

With $500,000 going to Chicago Public Schools’ CS4All Initiative and $1 million to SocialWorks, Google.org Principal Justin Steele said in a press release that the grant will help teachers implement computer science and arts curriculum in their classrooms, giving the chance for students underrepresented in computer science to explore the field.

“We’re honored to support SocialWorks’ mission to help underrepresented students in Chicago reach their full potential, as well as Chicago Public Schools’ efforts to turn computer science into a pathway for creative expression,” Steele said.

“There’s so much talent and creativity in the communities that these schools serve—and Chance The Rapper embodies what can happen when that creativity is unleashed. With exposure to computer science, students can use technology to turn their creative passions into something bigger.”

Ad Love: Issa Rae Debuts for CoverGirl

Issa Rae is taking the spotlight in a new way and she’s far from Insecure. The creative is featured in a new CoverGirl ad campaign for the special-edition Melting Pout Metallic lipstick.

In a nod to Rae’s character on her HBO series, “The Pickup” ad features the actress and comedian sitting at a bar talking to an unidentified potential love interest as music plays in the background. She’s a sparkly and stuff.

It’s everything. Check it out: