It seems within the last year we have been ‘graced’ with some of the most controversial, insensitive and downright offensive Ads we’ve seen in the past decade.

This has got everyone at Brilliant thinking about the many avenues and factors contributing to these mistakes:
1. Who, what and why?! And,
2. What happened to those equally offensive ads that avoided the big banishment from the media?

Well, we’re keen to draw up a comparison, beginning of course, with the Pepsi x Kendal Jenner ad.

Pepsi X Kendall Jenner

Pretty much everyone with a social media account saw and cringed at this one together.
Branded the most socially insensitive Ad of the year, it involves the young model joining a passing protest and choosing to resolve the situation by gifting a Police Officer… a can of Pepsi.

Paired with noticeably bad acting, cringey slogans on the protest banners and the insensitive use of current protests (e.g. Black Lives Matter, the Presidential Election protests) to sell their product, the people of the world and spoke out in force on social media and left Pepsi no choice but to remove the Ad completely and apologise.


Nivea, Nivea, Nivea… we thought this globally recognised brand would have learnt their lesson from ‘that’ racially slurring Ad back in 2011 featuring a nicely dressed black man holding the head of another man with an Afro with the headline,
“Re-Civilize Yourself: Look like you give a damn.”

But within a 2 month period Nivea released another Ad for their ‘Invisible’ deodorant featuring a woman wearing a white robe with the accompanying headline, “WHITE IS PURITY”

Almost too obvious a mistake to make, surely? Apparently not, as Nivea’s in-house marketing team released a statement later that day expressing their sincerest apologies as well as explaining their company values of “Diversity, tolerance and equal opportunity”.

GBK: Gourmet Burger Kitchen

Late last year, Gourmet Burger Kitchen’s marketing agency decided to pull another Ad risk, by utilising the controversial President of the United States, Donald Trump, in their October Ad campaign by likening him to one of their burgers.

Taglines consisted of:
“VOTE RUMP: It’s a bit of an arse”
“VOTE RUMP: Our thickest burger yet”
“VOTE RUMP: It’s a no brainer”

Paired with subtle, yet appealing photography of one of their burgers I wonder what kind of result this risky ad received… Continuous praise and an Epica Award for their Marketing agency!

Three very risky ads, but how do we draw the comparison between them?
Well, the obvious is the latter received high accreditation in comparison to the previous two’s backfire and eventual removal.
The greater question however is, what factor(s) separate them?
Lucky General’s founder Andy Nairn explained this factor perfectly:

“What happened at Pepsi clearly shows the dangers of not having an external perspective. Yes, an agency will take longer to make an ad, but a longer trial and error approach typically avoids controversy so it’s worth it.”

* Nod * Wink *

Brewdog: Pink IPA

Just in today… Brewdog announced they were turning their flagship Punk IPA pink to highlight the gender inequality gap.

They released a statement saying this was a satirical approach to highlighting the issue at hand. Some people got it, some people got it but thought it was a poor execution and some people didn’t get it…

Four things the campaign definitely achieved:

1. raised money for a worthy cause
2. got people talking about gender equality
3. got people talking about Brewdog