When Edgy Goes Wrong: Mtn Dew Gave Up Too Much Control

PepsiCo Finds Itself Apologizing After Branded Video From Tyler, The Creator

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Mtn Dew made a bet on Los Angeles-based rapper and producer Tyler, the Creator -- and lost.

The PepsiCo brand found itself apologizing -- including via paid Twitter ads -- this past week after a branded video the artist produced spurred charges of racism and misogyny.

The video was the second in a series of three Tyler Okonma made in partnership with Mtn Dew and depicted a beaten woman struggling to pick her aggressor out of a police lineup of young black men (members of Odd Future, Mr. Okonma's rap collective) and a goat, who heckles the woman. The woman is too scared of "snitching" to pick the perp -- the goat -- from the lineup.

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Mtn Dew execs must have known the tie-up would yield something somewhat controversial -- after all, the collaborator's Twitter handle is @fucktyler. But they were caught off guard as the debacle was dissected by national news outlets from The New York Times to CBS News. The brand's own Facebook fans remained relatively unruffled by the controversy -- though many expressed dismay they hadn't seen the video before Mtn Dew pulled it.

A Mtn Dew spokeswoman declined to comment beyond the brand's one-sentence apology. Mtn Dew also paid to promote an apology on Twitter, "Hey guys -- made a big mistake we've removed the offensive video from all our channels #fail." A spokesman for Mr. Okonma said the rapper was not available for comment.

Website BoingBoing.net suggested Mr. Okonma punked the brand. But considering Mr. Okonma's reputation, Mtn Dew's target demographic of young men and previous comments made by the artist, it's more likely someone at the company knew what the brand was getting into. Whether it meant to court just enough controversy to tweak the media is unclear.

What is clear is that Mtn Dew's brand managers were initially onboard with the controversial rapper's ideas. In an interview in front of a live audience that was posted recently on RapRadar.com, Mr. Okonma, sitting in front of a table with Mtn Dew products, explained the relationship began when Odd Future manager Christian Clancy told him Mtn Dew thought the rapper was cool and wanted to work with him. Mr. Okonma noted Mtn Dew execs were in the audience.

"I'm gonna tell them some stupid idea I came up with five minutes before the meeting and they're going to think it's fucking retarded," Mr. Okonma recounted. "And then I took a meeting with them and was like, OK, they're really cool, like actually young, a little older than me, and it was like, "so tell us the commercial.' And I'm like, "OK, so there's a fucking goat -- a goat, right? And he's gonna drink the fucking Mtn Dew, and he's gonna yell at the lady and then the cops are gonna pull him over and then he's gonna be in jail and he's gonna do PCP.' And ... they liked it. ... They actually gave me a chance and let me be fucking 7 years old with their product." It's unclear how many Mtn Dew execs greenlit the spot before it was posted.

Mr. Clancy last week posted on Tumblr a response to the uproar: "It was never Tylers [sic] intention to offend ... Out of respect to those that were offended the ad was taken down. For those who know and respect Tyler he is known for pushing boundaries and challenging stereotypes thru [sic] humor."

The ad is the latest to be yanked thanks to controversy. Hyundai apologized for a British ad depicting a man trying to kill himself in his IX35 crossover but unable to thanks to the vehicle's low emissions. And General Motors stopped airing a 1920s-themed ad in Europe and Canada that included a song referring to "the land of Fu Manchu" where all of the girls sing "ching, ching, chop-suey," which a Chinese newspaper called racist.

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