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Arbys Pepsi Ad is a Lesson for Nonprofits

Did you see Arby's new Pepsi ad? You can watch the spot here. Then I'll explain how I experienced this ad.

On Facebook, a friend shared a post from a Wall Street Journal Online article about Arby's having to apologize to Pepsi in a new commercial. It was interesting enough to catch my eye so I clicked.

Apparently, the article went on to explain, Arby's contract with Pepsi requires that they feature Pepsi prominently in 2 TV ads each year. But because no one was "paying attention" as Arby's ran their We Have Meats campaign this year, they forgot to do the promised spots.

Soooooooo…. Arbys creative team created a hilarious ad in the style of their other ads voiced by Ving Rhames apologizing to Pepsi. The spot ends with "Arbys: We Serve Pepsi". The folks at the soda giant were totally onboard with this playful make-good.

Media people have been calling this a brilliant response to a business error. "Arby's Has Pepsi And Made History's Greatest Commercial" said Break.com.

Or was this all the plan from the start?

Maybe this was a setup, maybe it wasn't. But this is the absolute PERFECT way to get your ad seen in today's multi-channel environment. .

I would not be surprised if Arbys went to Pepsi with this pitch early in the year: "Instead of running a TV Spot that includes you that people won't really notice, let's shoot an ad saying we FORGOT to run an ad for you. (Now we've created relevance to this ad when there was absolutely zero!) Its all about a TV ad but it will really be for reaching online audience. After all, it's newsworthy - Big Companies Could've Sued but Instead Creatively Made Nice - so Bloggers will write about, Facebookers and Tweeters will share the story like its Gossip/Inside Baseball and they'll all show the actual spot so in the end we will get normally distracted TV watchers to pay full attention to a 30 second ad about us because its by choice. When they do see it on TV, they will stop and say "Oh, that's that ad!"

Folks - we are living in a multi-channel, socially driven world, where you have very little time to make people want to click or pay attention. Either Arby's had a brilliant oops or they married a TV construct with online newsworthy relevance absolutely perfectly. Either way, THAT is how you do it.

Instead of just a TV ad, they created an entire information experience.

Lets recap - an interesting and non-ordinary current events story came across my Facebook news feed. This made me click because it has elements that interest me (big business advertising, consumer giants, major business screwups) and took me even deeper by making me feel part of the inside story. They got me to watch the commercial with purpose, focused entirely on the two brands involved (an enormous challenge for advertisers today). And because Arbys has masterfully configured their YouTube Channels' Recommended Videos - I even watched another spot from their original campaign.

Let me recap again even shorter - Facebook. To Article. To TV Commercial on YouTube. To More YouTube Channel Videos. To Now I will pay even more attention when I see any of their TV spots.

Brilliant. Engaging. And Delicious.

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Author: Leigh Kessler is VP of Marketing for CharityEngine. In addition to being an expert on branding, he is a former stand-up comedian and TV personality seen on shows like VH1's "Best Week Ever" and CNN's "Showbiz Tonight".


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