The story is one most of us have probably heard before: someone gets fired because they said something on Twitter or FaceBook, or something they did ends up on YouTube. But what does it mean when these parables become the punchline of a major ad campaign?
Consider for a moment, this Pepsi MAX ad:
For Pepsi, the decision was probably just a straightforward decision: it’s a good joke and a remake of a classic commercial. But what does it say about society when this is a widely understood convention? Has ubiquitous wireless Internet and the narcissism/obliviousness/flippancy/need-to-share-everything-with-everyone-now that has accompanied social media (or at least has been magnified in some way by social media) become that pervasive, or is it still relegated to the vocal minority?
Or is there still time for this to be a warning to people? According to Mashable (as linked above), 8% of companies have fired employees over various happenings on social networks (the number for disciplining is higher), but that doesn’t change the fact that this could happen to anyone at any time, if they don’t use common sense. I remember several times, Rowan had people speak in the Student Center Pit about the hazards of social networks and how it can damage your career, or a search for one (though they never seem to have any about how to use social networks to help your hunt for a job, but that’s for another time). For most of America, could this be the same thing, but told through a humorous parable that simultaneously sells us a refreshing soft drink with zero calories and great taste?
Personally, my feelings is that most people know about how social media snafus can make your employer become your ex-employer. However, it’s also like the rest of the good advice we’re given that we ignore because it’s “no fun.” Like eat less red meat, cut down on sugar, filter your own water, recycle, don’t drink alcohol (or only in moderation). We know what we’re supposed to do, but until we see it in some way that strikes us in some way (humerously, shockingly, what have you) like the Minnesota Department of Public Safety‘s PSAs in their campaign, “Over the Limit. Under Arrest.”
In my opinion, that Pepsi’s ad is funny will cause their ad to become an unintended PSA, demonstrating how not just what you do on social media, but what your friends do on social media (and, of course, vise versa), can be Bad News Bears. And I guess that because Pepsi featured this in an ad where there was no spoken punchline, no explanation about why that video on YouTube meant anything, means that social media really is that pervasive. Everyone knows what these things are, that you can post from anywhere, and that your friend can get you fired, even if you are careful (note how the Coke guy looks around before drinking from the Pepsi Max can?).
I’m curious what others think. Was Pepsi just trying to make a buck, or did they try and continue the positive karma momentum from their Refresh Project to try and teach a lesson with a laugh? Or do most people “get” this one? Are we social media nodes isolated up on our ivory tower, pontificating over the meaning of a joke no one else gets?