Ads aren’t received by the conscious mind

A quick reflection on that Pepsi ad from five years ago

If you’re reading this, you’re likely a cord-cutting, ad-blocking, internet-savvy so-and-so who’s usually in the wrong place for the mass media, out-of-home placements that Pepsico Inc. spends billions of dollars on.

But you might have seen this one. In April 2017, Pepsi unleashed a provocative two-minute TV spot stuffed with everything you could want: a hot demographic (young Zennials), a hot celebrity (Kendall something), and a Cultural Moment (hot protesters ‘n’ even hotter cops).

Drink Pepsi. Get StuffDrink Pepsi. Get Stuff

Upon not-that-close inspection, the events in this short film are complete bologne. Cracking open a Pepsi barely solves thirst, let alone state violence against people of color. The next day, Pepsi issued an apology and pulled the ad.

Blow darts versus grenades

It wasn’t a failure, of course. “Conversation” about the ad spread like a virus via PepsiCo’s target demographic. Generation Next. Cynical we.

And here’s the point: Ads aren’t received by the conscious mind.

This wasn’t a direct response ad. In that world, an Ordinary Consumer (“monch, monch, monch”) has an acute need:

“Ack! I killed a sex worker!”

To which an Advertiser (“buy, buy, buy”), recognizing this need, responds with a direct message:

“Need a lawyer, call 1-800-MURDERZ”

Kendall-palooza is on another level.

Brands like PepsiCo trade on mindshare. If you missed the ad, someone told you about it. Newspapers wrote about it. I’m talking about it five years later. (That’s how much I love Pepsi.)

Persuasion isn’t always about “gosh, wasn’t that ad clever.” If direct response ads are precisely-targeted blow darts, TV ads are grenades lobbed in the general direction of our subconscious. They smoke us out of our caves and into an idling shuttle bus headed for the mall.

This is how terrible, tone deaf, meaningless ads “work.” They are an assault on your subconscious mind.

Confessions of a dirt-bro

If TV ads are grenades, then social media ads are agent orange.

You think Instagram is “listening to you” because they showed you a relevant ad about, oh I don’t know, collapsible shovels? It’s the other way around, dude.

It’s your subconscious that’s listening as you graze the endless grasses of low-poly content (“monch, monch, monch”). It goes like this:

  1. You get triggered by some meatworld phenomenon (a conversation with a dirt-bro, general malaise, etc.), then,
  2. You notice the already-there ad for a collapsible shovel in your feed and,
  3. You feel the creeps and issue an impotent j’accuse to the metaverse: “Stop listening to me!”

But that order of an events is an illusion.

The ads were always there, targeting not-that-special You across normie dimensions like age, location, and sex. That’s more than enough to know you need a better frying pan, handmade ceramics, or a collapsible shovel. According to advertising budgets, you’re not that unique and Meta’s market cap is proof.

When you register one of these ads, it’s your conscious mind finally sniffing the smoke of a fire started in the basement of your brain. Drink Pepsi. Get stuff. Be careful out there.

Promotional consideration provided by Pepsi