Friday, April 14, 2017

PepsiCo.: Racist Mountain Dew Commercial (2013)

PepsiCo. logo

Mountain Dew is one of PepsiCo’s main products. It was created in Tennessee for men to mix with their whiskey (Pepsi). The creators of Mountain Dew offer their idea to Coca-Cola but they were declined (Pepsi). Mountain Dew became very popular and in 1964 it was picked up by the Pepsi-Cola Company (Pepsi). Mountain Dew became increasing demanded in the action sports world. This caused a lot of actions sports stars and musicians to do ads with them. People such as Paul Rodriguez and Lil Wayne have been seen on many ads promoting Mountain Dew. Famous rapper, Tyler the Creator, did a series of ads with Mountain Dew. These ads were a three part story depicting the story of a goat called Felicia. These were web-ads they were meant to play on websites such as YouTube and not meant to be played on the television. These ads were stripped from the internet in May of 2013. They sparked the controversy of racial stereotypes and violence of women. Two days later PepsiCo removed the ads from all internet sources displaying them.
In the first of three ads displays the goat, Felicia, assaulting a waitress in the attempt to get more Mountain Dew. In the ads Felicia almost seems to be drunk off the Mountain Dew. In the next ad, Felicia appearing to be drunk of Mountain Dew is pulled over in by a police car. The goat’s vision appears to be blurry from the Mountain Dew and when the officer opens the trunk is it filled to the top with Mountain Dew. The officer says the goat “has a clear case of Dew-U-I”. Finally in the last ad stirring the most controversy is a lineup of all African-American men and Felicia as the batter waitress in crutches has to pick out who did this to her. All of the men in the lineup are wearing baggy clothing and do-rags.

Mountain Dew,
product made by PepsiCo.

Stakeholders are people who affect or are affected by a company’s actions. In this particular case is it the people directly affected by the web ads. Some of the stakeholders include anybody who viewed the ads. To go into more depth, specifically African-Americans because the way they are portrayed in the web ads. Doctor Boyce Watkins is an author/ analyst from Syracuse University. He explains that this is the most racist ad in history. All the men in the lineup are African- American and he would describe them as “mean mugging” and “gangsta” (Yourblackworld). The company as a whole is directly affected because they will face repercussions as to people who boycott their products to the inappropriate ads. This will then hurt their sales/ profits.

Individualism theory is to maximize your company’s profits while staying within the law. During this time no laws were broken by Mountain Dew. Although no laws were broken they left all their customers unhappy by viewing this racist ad. This in then creates angry customers who will want to boycott the company. Boycotting products ultimately will cause a decline in sales revenue hurting the company in the long run. There was no evidence of increased profit during the time of these web ads. These web ads created angry customers who want to boycott their products ultimately hurting the company’s revenue this is unethical under the Individualism theory.

Utilitarianism According to utilitarian ethics, happiness or pleasure are the only things of intrinsic value (Salazar). People who are enraged by this ad will boycott PepsiCo’s products and will eventually end up with PepsiCo’s revenue declining. Even though everyone doesn’t view the ad as offensive it doesn’t make perfect sense to keep the ad on the web if stakeholders are enraged by what they are viewing. By removing the ad they are showing their customers they are a socially responsible business. By showing they are a socially responsible business this will attract more customers to invest in PepsiCo’s products. In this case the cost-benefit analysis can be seen. Once the public uproar from the consumers happened the only benefit that can happen to pull the ad and immediately releasing a public statement admitting that the ad was wrong. This process is less expensive and more profitable. After the backlash from the online ads, PepsiCo immediately removed the ads. A representative from PepsiCo addressed/ apologized to the stakeholders saying “Pepsi understands how the ad is offensive” (Billboard). This is the best move that PepsiCo could of have made. Based off Utilitarian ethics, Mountain Dew was unethical by creating unhappy consumers because of the racist ad.

A photo of the Mountain Dew commercial deemed racist

Kantianism focuses on act rationally and to respect other people (Salazar). Acting rationally can be defined as helping yourself make rational decisions and helping others making rationally decisions (Salazar). In this case the rational decision was to remove the ads from the internet. PepsiCo removed the ads in a timely manner to help the consumers get what they want and also respect them at the same time. The consumers said that they viewed these ads as offensive and racist. Acting out of good will is to remove the ads because it is the right thing to do in this situation. Another principle of Kantian ethics is the Formula of Humanity (Salazar). The Formula of Humanity is described as “Acting in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of another, always at the same time as an end and never simply as a means” (Salazar). This broken up into three separate ideas; humanity, ends, means (Salazar). Acting out of rationally is to remove the ads because it is the right thing to do. Acting out of the end is to accept what you did is unacceptable and the company needed to own up to it. Acting out of means is to value the consumers will and remove it because they view it as racist and offensive. Being rightly motivated is a main principle of Kantian ethics (Salazar). There are three maxims for Kantian Shopkeeper (Salazar). The first is to be honest with your customers needing to gain trust and have repeat customers (Salazar). Taking the ad down will help gain trust with the consumers and will attract repeat customers. The second is to be honest with your customers because you like them (Salazar). Admitting that PepsiCo saw the how the ad was offensive is being honest with the consumers. Lastly PepsiCo needs to be honest with their customers because it is the right thing to do (Salazar). Removing the ad was in the end the right thing to do because it sparked an uproar by the public. Looking at this through the Kantianism perspective it is viewed as unethical.

Virtue Theory

Virtue Theory is based off four main character traits; courage, honesty, temperance, and justice (Salazar). These main principles address the whole picture of the situation. Courage is defined as “risking taking and willingness to take a stand for the right ideas and actions” (Salazar). PepsiCo succeed in taking a risk with the series of web ads by Tyler the Creator. When the ad backfired they succeeded in doing what was right and removing the ad and accepted that they did wrong. Honesty is defined as “Honesty in agreements, hiring and treatment of employees, customers and other companies” (Salazar). PepsiCo failed to treat the customers fair by displaying the offensive and racist ad. They made up for their wrong doing by removing the ad. Temperance is defined as “reasonable expectations and desires” (Salazar). The desire was to have a funny ad but in the end they failed to meet expectations and created an ad that needed to be stripped from the internet. Justice is defined as “hard work, quality products, good ideas, and fair practices” (Salazar). PepsiCo created quality products but when people didn’t like the ad people could not believe what they were watching and their “good idea” needed to be taken down. The Virtue Theory verifies that Mountain Dew is unethical.


"Pepsi Store - History of the Birthplace of Pepsi." Pepsi Store - History of the Birthplace of Pepsi. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.
"Tyler, the Creator Talks Mountain Dew Controversy: 'It's Not Gonna Change My Art in Any Way'" Billboard. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.
"Mountain Dew Releases Arguably the Most Racist Commercial in History." Your Black World.. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.
DesJardins, Joseph R. An Introduction to Business Ethics. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2009. Print.
Class PowerPoints/ Lectures / Case Manual. Professor Salazar

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