Pepsi Removes 'Dystopian' Ad for Coronavirus Testing After Getting Slammed on Social Media

Pepsi called the "dystopian" advertisement promoting Pepsi-branded coronavirus testing at a Walmart store an "unfortunate mistake." The ad was removed, but not before a photo of the banner went viral on Twitter. Pepsi also previously scrapped a planned "#Summergram" campaign, which would have featured people going outside with their soft drinks.

On Wednesday, a Twitter user shared a photo of a Walmart offering coronaviurs testing. "COVID-19 Testing Site Near Walmart #908," the banner read. It included the latest Pepsi tagline, "That's what I like," as well as the Pepsi logo three times. "What absolute dystopian hell world are we living in," the Twitter user wrote in the caption. The tweet now has over 50,000 retweets and thousands of comments, many form people equally horrified.

"This was an unfortunate mistake by one of our local sales associates that in trying to move with speed to get this important testing message up did not follow proper approval protocols," PespsiCo said in an emailed statement on the sign. A company representative said the banner has since been taken down. The snafu followed a recent interview with the outlet, in which PepsiCo North American chief marketing officer Greg Lyons explained how the company was changing its current marketing efforts.

Pepsi recently conducted a survey of 5,000 people, and 80% of them said Pepsi should chance its marketing style due to the coronavirus pandemic. The first idea to go was the #Summergram campaign. Lyons told Business Insider they felt that campaign would sound "tone-deaf" if they launched it. "[We] gave some people something to feel good about — in an authentic way — because Pepsi is part of a lot of restaurant experiences and we want to help those restaurants and those employees," he explained.

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While the bizarre Walmart ad grabbed social media's attention, the PepsiCo Foundation launched a $7 million initiative on Wednesday to support the groups hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic. The initiative will dedicate $1 million each to the National Urban League and UnidosUS to feed families and seniors, and help testing and medical care. The remaining $5 million will be sent to nonprofits helping Black and Latino communities. The foundation is also giving a $100,000 grant to the Farmworkers Pandemic Relief Fund.

There are more than 1.56 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University data. The death toll has reached over 93,000, while 12.6 million tests have been conducted. Over 294,000 patients have recovered from the coronavirus, which cases the respiratory disease COVID-19.