Are in-house firms doomed after the Pepsi-Kendall Jenner ad?

Finsbury’s Peter Land participated in a debate in PRWeek about whether Pepsi's poorly-received advertisement starring reality-show star Kendall Jenner spells doom for in-house agencies. Land makes the case for why this can be a moment for companies to take stock and examine how they can best marry internal and external talent and capabilities.

Do the names Peter Moore and Tinker Hatfield mean anything to you?

While there is still debate as to who coined the phrase “Air Jordan,” there is no debate about Moore and Hatfield. They were the primary designers who conceived Nike’s multibillion-dollar Air Jordan franchise — and they worked for Nike.

One of the many things that have made Nike successful is it considers itself a challenger brand that defies convention and takes creative risks. I have friends who have worked there, and they’ve said that spirit infiltrates the company at its core.

The best challenger brands foster strong and collaborative agency relationships and give their firms the same license. That, too, led Nike’s Air Jordan franchise to flourish.

Pepsi — full disclaimer, I used to work there — is a challenger brand. It has and always will be part of Pepsi’s DNA. There has been consistency to its approach. That goes not only for the people who work on the brand, but also for various agencies that support Pepsi.

I applaud what Brad Jakeman, president, global beverage group, and others have been doing and saying: deepening its in-house design capabilities, pleading for diversity, and shaking up traditional marketing models. That includes experimenting with in-house creative.

In Pepsi’s case, I don’t believe the origin of the campaign — Pepsi’s in-house agency — is relevant. It’s plausible the concept and execution of the Kendall Jenner spot could have come from one of Pepsi’s agencies — and it still would have had to clear the same hurdles.

So, instead of pointing the finger at Pepsi’s “in-house agency,” let’s use the campaign as a teaching moment to examine how companies can best marry internal and external talent and capabilities. How can companies remake their marketing departments and encourage experimentation and innovation with their own talent and their agencies?

Let’s view the Pepsi example through the lens of how companies and agencies can work together to grow each other’s business and create enduring relationships.

After all, I still have my 1986 Air Jordans.

 

This article first appeared in PRWeek.