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Mountain Dew Airs Racist, Insensitive Ad Produced By Tyler The Creator

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First Posted: May 01, 2013 10:02 PM EDT
The soft drink company has since pulled the ad from its website, but has the damage already been done? (Photo : flickr.com/Arete13)

Mountain Dew has a bit of a publicity disaster on its hands after a highly controversial ad for the soft drink hit the internet this week. Many people are calling the commercial one of the most blatantly racist and insensitive commercials ever.

Mountain Dew, which is a PepsiCo. brand, hired hiphop star Tyler, The Creator to come up with an advertising idea for their campaign. The rapper is known for his off beat, highly provovative style, and it should come as no surprise that his foray into advertising would follow suit.

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"I'm gonna tell them some stupid idea I come up with five minutes before the meeting and they're gonna think it's f---in' retarded," Tyler told veteran hip-hop journalist Elliott Wilson before debuting the commercial in question for a live audience. "I'm so used to people saying, 'That's f---ing retarded and I'm looking at Clancy (Tyler's manager) like, 'Yo are they serious' and they actually liked it."

The commercial portrays a battered woman attempting to identify her assaulter (presumably her boyfriend) out of a lineup of stereotypically thuggish black men. A goat is in the middle of the lineup, and is threatening the woman not to snitch on him.

As far as Tyler is concerned, controversy is just fine. He applauds Mountain Dew for giving him the chance to do something nobody else would do.

 "Finally someone looked past the rape or the devil worshiping or the immaturity which is evident in the commercial," he said acknowledging the controversial content of his music. "They actually gave me a chance and let me be seven years old with their product."

Controversial marketing can be effective. The online hook-up site for married people, www.ashleymadison.com, once offered a Phoenix airport $10 million to rename it after the website. For obvious reasons, the proposal was rejected,  but the controversial offer spurred a lot of media attention and the site's traffic skyrocketed afterwards.

Mountain Dew, however, is not a provocative brand, and so it's doubtful that a similar marketing strategy would be effective. The soda brand now has to do some serious work to clean up its image.

"There's a rush to do real-time marketing and get things to go viral," says Steve Barrett, editor of PR Week. "But in that rush, the approval process sometimes gets forgotten about."

Some critics have already stepped forward to chastise the company for its blatant disregard for sensitive issues. Among other topics, the ad seems to make light over the serious issues of domestic abuse and racially biased incrimination.

 "Given their poor record of marketing to African Americans, and the hundreds of millions blacks spend with the company, there needs to be an investigation and a plan that is made public on how this will be avoided in the future," says Ken Smikle, president of Target Market News, a research company that monitors developments in African-American marketing and media.

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