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The Pepsi Ad: Offensive - or Not?

The Controversial Ad


Millions of people have seen the controversial video Pepsi created.  Some were immediately offended, and others are still wondering what the fuss is all about.  There are connections here to several concepts in psychology aside from stereotyping like group cohesion, groupthink and the importance of group roles.


Hopefully some of your students haven't seen the video.  I suggest first showing the video WITHOUT saying anything about the controversy surrounding it:



A brief discussion could be had around the question of who would find this offensive.  If a student has never experienced problems with the police they may not see the controversy - many people find it to be an uplifting video. But if you have had negative encounters with the police you may think that the ad trivializes the solution (i.e., handing a pepsi to a policeman) to a very big problem. 


How Did This Ad Get Made in the First Place?

Hopefully your class will see how some people could find it offensive.  Here are a few questions you might ask them:


  • How do they think the ad was created and alllowed to air by Pepsi executives? Why didn't they see the potential problems before it went live?
  • See if you can get them to connect this to Group Cohesion and GroupThink: it's possible that the ad team was so "tight-knit" that members who saw the potential for offense were afraid to speak up.
  • Quick group activity: get students into groups for quick application question: knowing what we know about groupthink, what should Pepsi do to avoid a problem like this in the future? I'm guessing that answers will include: increating diversity on the staff, instituting a tradition of openly inviting opposing viewpoints, and finally, designating a "devils advocate" role to someone in the ad team before they begin group discussion.   


To end on a little bit of humor, show this parody of the ad created by the Saturday Night Live folks.

Ad-World Insiders on How the Hell That Pepsi Ad Got Made

Tweet: The Pepsi Ad: Offensive Or Not? Get students to discuss.