What Brad Jakeman Learned From the 'Gut-Wrenching' Backlash to Pepsi's Jenner Ad

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The harsh response to Pepsi's Kendall Jenner ad was "was the most gut-wrenching experience of my career," Brad Jakeman, the outgoing president of PepsiCo's global beverage group, said Thursday in his first public comments about the ad, which Pepsi pulled earlier this year amid widespread criticism.

In a wide-ranging on-stage interview at the Ad Age Next conference, Jakeman also warned marketers to have compassion for fellow marketing executives who get caught up in similar social media firestorms. He cited the example of Dove, which despite years of progressive female advertising, was put on the defensive last month over a small portion of a body wash ad that some critics deemed racist.

"We are now publishing thousands of pieces of content," Jakeman said. "There are going to be these issues. And when they happen, be the person that reaches out to that company and say, 'How can I help.' Don't be the person that piles on."

Traditional ad research methods need to be updated, he added, to account for the fact that "we live in a word now where one person with 50,000 Twitter following can have a significant impact on your brand."

Jakeman, who oversaw PepsiCo's in-house content creation arm, announced last month that he was leaving the marketer to start a consultancy. PepsiCo will be his first client. "It was the hardest decision of my life," he said Thursday about his decision to leave. "I loved every minute of my seven years at PepsiCo."

Jakeman is known as a fierce advocate for gender diversity. In a fiery speech two years ago at an Association of National Advertisers meeting, he said he was "sick and tired as a client of sitting in agency meetings with a whole bunch of white straight males talking to me about how we are going to sell our brands that are bought 85% by women."

In an interview after his stage appearance Thursday, Jakeman addressed what progress, if any, has been made on that issue. He also spoke about efforts to move beyond ad formats such as pre-roll, which he has criticized as being pollutive.

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