Is Copy Dying? (3)

[August 25, 2009]

So far, my survey had left me fairly reassured. I had seen brilliance and mediocrity in the proportions I’d come to expect. When I arrived at Pepsi, however, I found the first concrete basis for concern.

Keeping in mind that Copy decisions are usually made in concert with a diverse committee of Strategists, Account Executives, Art Directors, Brand Managers and Marketing Directors, a Web site like this is the surest sign that Copy, as a distinct area of expertise, may be dying after all.

For starters, the most prominent line on the home page was “False Rumor Alert,” set in knock-out type at the lower left. The home page marquee, on the other hand, offered no message that could compete with it for audience attention.

Instead, I found a random array of screenshots from 21 different satellite sites, each of which was a desperate stab at relevance to “Youth.” You can sense that same desperation in the screenshot captions. Here’s a representative sample:

•Do Something Learn what you can do to do something great for
your world.

•Pepsi Music Hear today’s coolest tracks from your favorite artists.
•Refresh Sports A refreshing spin on the sports you love.

In their quest for universal appeal, these lines cease to function as Copy and degenerate into mere words:

•“Do Something,” is emotionless and extremely vague. Syntactically,      “Learn what you can doto do…” is a nightmare of redundancy that
undermines the program’s credibility: Do what?

•“Pepsi Music” gives consumers no reason to believe it offers a unique
experience. Why 
Pepsi Music instead of iTunes or a thousand other
digital music outlets

•“Refresh Sports” ties back to Pepsi’s “Refresh Everything” campaign,
but doesn’t say what its
 “refreshing spin on sports” actually is. Without
qualification, the word “refreshing” is an
 empty promise, based solely
on a mechanical tie-in to a promotional theme.

Here, ultimately, is a major brand squandering it’s brand identity on an expensive, all-you-can-eat buffet of promotional junk food. In the absence of a clear messaging strategy, what emerged was Pepsi’s unintended message:

We’re not sure who you are, but here’s a lot of stuff for you. You’ll like it: It’s youth-oriented—and we’re pretty sure you’re young. Do you like Facebook and Twitter? Some of the young people on our staff like them, too. Anyway, we hope you find something you like, because we want you to keep “chilling” with us.

In my next and last segment on this topic I’ll share what I found in the Fashion category, as well as some general conclusions.


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Mark Laporta

Writer, Creative Consultant
New York, NY




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