Digital Strategy | Untitled-13 3 min read

How Pepsi Killed Creativity

by Mike McGarry June 21, 2017

Yep no question. Creativity as we know it is dead. Bold statement? Sure. But it doesn’t change the fact that the Mad Men days are well and truly behind us.

There is no greater example of this than the recent Pepsi commercial featuring Kendall Jenner. No doubt a bunch of “creative geniuses” sat around on beanbags in a rustic, eccentrically styled room giving each other back slaps, fist bumps and high fives after coming up with such an out of the box idea. My question is simple, did anyone involved in the production of this advertisement actually take a second to test the message before going live?

Sure, Testing is Great, But Production is Expensive.

Now this is true and I certainly can’t argue with that. However, there are many cases where there isn’t a sunk cost as large as hiring a Jenner to contend with. For most brands, especially those that run large above the line activity there is ample opportunity to test a message.

Testing a message does not mean using the antiquated practice of focus groups. All you have to do is read a few economics or psychology books (personally I recommend Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman) to realise how laughably easy it is to manipulate the results of such a practise. Fortunately, there is a better way…

There is a New Breed of Creative Lurking Out There.

We live in a world where you can’t go more than a few days without hearing about machine learning, artificial intelligence, robots, blockchain or the internet of things. In this world the new currency of creativity is data.

The new breed of creative has the ability to take their ideas and rapidly test them against their audience in a small and controlled manner. They are utilising technology such as programmatic advertising to take their message to a channel such as YouTube or Facebook and get real, actionable feedback from a small subset of their audience. Feedback which can then be used to iterate upon and further shape their creative expression before launching a campaign in its entirety.

Test and learn is the new guiding principle for the creative genius.

So What Does This Mean for the Donald Drapers of the world?

The world changes. A top down idea without testing is now nothing more than a fantasy. If you want to keep capturing the ever elusive unfair share of voice that makes a brand great you have two choices. Adapt or die.


Written by Mike McGarry