PepsiCo pulled an online ad for Mountain Dew that was criticized for portraying racial stereotypes and making light of violence toward women.
In the 60-second spot – developed by Odd Future rapper Tyler, The Creator -- a battered white woman on crutches is urged by an officer to identify a suspect out of a lineup of black men. A goat character known as Felicia is included in the lineup.
In the ad, which has been pulled from Odd Future's YouTube channel and Mountain Dew's Green Label Sound website, the goat makes threatening remarks to the woman such as "Ya better not snitch on a player" and "Keep ya mouth shut." She eventually screams "I can't do this, no no no!" and runs away.
The word "do" is in apparent reference to the soft drink's "Dew It" slogan.
PepsiCo Inc., based in Purchase, N.Y., apologized in a statement and said it understood how the ad could be offensive.
Jen Ryan, a spokeswoman for PepsiCo, said the company was alerted on Tuesday by its consumer relations team that some people found the ad offensive. The company immediately decided to take down the spot and was told by Tyler that he would remove it from his YouTube channel as well, she said.
The ad was never intended to air on TV, Ryan said, though previous commercials have aired exclusively on Adult Swim. Tyler, The Creator’s series of spots for Mountain Dew were created as part of his new branding agency, Camp Flog Gnaw, which he formed with William Morris Endeavor earlier this year to produce off-beat content for brands.
His raps have been criticized for being misogynistic and homophobic at times, but he has also expressed support for the singer Frank Ocean when he revealed he was bisexual.
Social scholar Dr. Boyce Watkins called the spot "arguably the most racist commercial in history" in a post on his website. "Of course, in the world of Mountain Dew, every single suspect is black,” he wrote. “Not just regular black people, but the kinds of ratchety negroes you might find in the middle of any hip-hop minstrel show... Apparently, this is the kind of ad you put out if you want to appeal to the black male demographic.”
IDIOTS THE LADY IN THE NEW MOUNTAIN DEW COMMERCIAL IS THE WAITRESS THAT GOT ATTACK RETARD
— Tyler, The Creator (@fucktyler) April 25, 2013
In a previous Mountain Dew ad, the Goat is shown attacking the woman, who plays a waitress, which Tyler referenced in a Tweet (above) saying,"IDIOTS THE LADY IN THE NEW MOUNTAIN DEW COMMERCIAL IS THE WAITRESS THAT GOT ATTACK RETARD."
Tyler's manager, Christian Clancy, addressed the matter in a Tumblr post titled "Mountain Dew controversy" on Wednesday afternoon.
"It was never Tylers intention to offend however offense is personal and valid to anyone who is offended," the post reads. "Out of respect to those that were
offended and the ad was taken down. For those who know and respect Tyler he is known for pushing boundaries and challenging stereotypes thru humor. This is someone who grew up on David Chappelle. This situation is layered with context and is a discussion that Tyler would love to address in the right forum as he does have a point of view. As someone who hasn’t had the experience of being discriminated against i choose to respect the opinion of those who have.. what I can speak to is Tyler who represents much more than the current narrative this story suggests. Contrary to what many may discern from this Tyler is the embodiment of not judging others, his delivery may not be for everyone (which is true for anyone who pushes boundaries) but his voice is nonetheless impt to the conversation since his demographic understands what he ultimately stands for and sees the irony of it all. Context may or not help those who are offended and I wholly respect that but for those who are interested I can offer the following and leave the rest to Tyler.
"1. This spot was part of an overall admittedly absurd storyline about a crazy goat who becomes obsessed with Mountain Dew
"2. The lady in front of the lineup is the waitress from the first spot.
"3. The lineup consists of Tylers friends and odd future members who were available that day. (LBoy, Leftbrain, Garret from Trash Talk and Errol)
"4. He absolutely never intended to spark a controversy about race. it was simply an again admittedly absurd story that was never meant to be taken seriously.
"Again we apologize if this was taken out of context and would never trivialize racism, especially now in America where voting and civil rights are being challenged at the highest level. I can however stand firmly by someone I have believed in since we met only because I know him and i know all of this was never his intent."
Tyler, The Creator isn’t the only Mountain Dew music partner who’s courted controversy this week. Also on Wednesday, Lil Wayne issued an apology letter to the family of Emmett Till after they threatened to take action against his corporate sponsors like Mountain Dew if the rapper didn’t apologize for a lyric referencing the tragically beaten 1950s civil rights figure (“beat the p---y up like Emmett Till”) on Future’s “Karate Chop (Remix.)” Future’s label Epic had already pulled Wayne’s verse from the commercial release of the song, and Wayne vowed not to perform the lyrics going forward.
“I have tremendous respect for those who paved the way for the liberty and opportunities that African-Americans currently enjoy,” he said in a statement. “As a business owner who employs several African-American employees and gives philanthropically to organizations that help youth to pursue their dreams my ultimate intention is to uplift rather than degrade our community.”