Pepsi Max Commits Brand Suicide

Brand Flakes for Breakfast points to this Pepsi Max campaign posted on AdGoodness.
The works comes from BBDO, Düsseldorf.
A person named “scarabin” commenting on AdGoodness says, “this is FUCKED UP. there are 35,000 suicides in america each year. this is an incredibly callous way to sell a can of soda.”
Agreed, but this creative is also strategically dead on, and it delivers the brand promise—that there’s just this one lonely calorie—in a novel fashion.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Actually, Germany’s suicide rate is higher than the U.S. rate. Regardless, I do disagree with you about the greatness of this execution, David. First, it’s not possible to verify this is on strategy, as we’re not privy to the brief (or at least I’m not). Plus, I doubt one lonely calorie is really the brand benefit. Having worked on low-cal soft drinks, I know that taste ultimately trumps caloric totals. Hell, one calorie is almost a given for diet soft drinks (did you know that soft drink companies put one calorie on the label, but the product is actually less than a calorie?). Being novel does not mean being right. If Americans were upset enough about GM’s suicidal robot to get that spot reedited, I wonder how this one will fare with Germans.

  2. @adolf – You’re right, I’m merely guessing that the strategy was to reinforce the one calorie POD, which isn’t even a POD according to you. BTW, I don’t think the ad is “great.” But I do like the chewed-by-a-beaver stump.

  3. David, the more I think about it, the more I believe this ad does a lousy job strategically. Diet Pepsi Max is more than a diet soft drink – the Max part involves the caffeine and other elements “juicing” it up. The creatives gave a total “one calorie” diet story to a product that should have received different messaging. And I’ll bet they did it because they had their stupid idea about one lonely calorie. This campaign is not just offensive for its suicide slant – it’s offensive because it likely reflects the arrogance of irresponsible creatives.

  4. “This campaign is not just offensive for its suicide slant – it’s offensive because it likely reflects the arrogance of irresponsible creatives.”
    Amen to that. Sadly, its the way of the ad world now. With fan sites like adgoodness often showcasing work of questionable origin—and requiring a continuous supply to stay “current”—there will always be desperate creatives, Jr’s to ECDs, jonesing for some of that cheap, easy, e-fame crack.

  5. Guess they crossed over. Just saw them on AdAge.
    Client disavowal of ever approving them in 5, 4,3,2,1…

  6. I lost my sister to suicide 4 years ago. It changed my life and woke me up to a very dark side that many of the people we care about live in on a daily basis until it’s too late.
    I have NO IDEA how a supposedly world class agency like BBDO could have come up with such an insensitive ad campaign …nor can I comprehend how a brand like Pepsi could approve this kind garbage. Are their sales really suffering to the point where using suicide as a theme to sell soda makes sense to them?
    Fact: Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among teens age 15-24.
    Fact: Pepsi Max targets that demographic
    What the hell were you thinking BBDO and Pepsi?