Pepsico amps up controversy around taste-free iPhone app

Oct 15, 2009
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This just in: young men who gulp energy drinks often enjoy tasteless humor. In an effort to pursue this demographic, Pepsico’s AMP Energy brand earlier this week released the AMP UP Before Your Score application for the iPhone. While the app’s Top 10 ranking suggests immediate popularity, the bigger hit Pepsico is taking is to […]

This just in: young men who gulp energy drinks often enjoy tasteless humor.

In an effort to pursue this demographic, Pepsico’s AMP Energy brand earlier this week released the AMP UP Before Your Score application for the iPhone. While the app’s Top 10 ranking suggests immediate popularity, the bigger hit Pepsico is taking is to its corporate reputation.

While Appolicious does not condone the frat boy nature of the app – which divides women into 24 different stereotypes with labels like “Indie Girl”, “Cougar”, and “Princess” and then generates unique pickup lines for each type – we cannot help but notice how taste standards differ on the iPhone as opposed to other media.

Spike TV, “The Hangover” and MySpace are just a few examples of mainstream entertainment vehicles that celebrate men behaving badly. While we are conditioned to expect lewd and insensitive programming on television, cinema and the web, there is little precedent for this kind of commercially backed content on the iPhone.

Apps like Pickup Guide and Chick Magnet have been available for several months, but lack the exposure and production resources to make any pop cultural dent. When Pepsico commissioned its agency to develop the AMP app, it had no way to predict the backlash that would eventually bubble up. A formal apology on Twitter was the company’s first step in putting out the public relations fire, although many people are calling for the app to be removed from the iTunes App Store.

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Regardless of how this episode ultimately plays out, if history offers us any lesson, expect to see more branded apps that push the boundaries of good taste. Mobile applications represent the newest frontier in marketing and are uniquely suited to reach and interact with consumers wherever they go.

As long as there are advertisers interested in serving up shots of adrenaline to young men prone to singles bars and extreme sporting events, there will be applications and mobile media campaigns like AMP UP Before Your Score designed to reach them.

The beauty of the iPhone is, unlike the television that requires you to turn the station from objectionable content, any app that is not your cup of tea mustn’t be downloaded in the first place.

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Brad Spirrison

Brad Spirrison is the managing editor of appoLearning and Appolicious Inc. In this capacity, he has sampled and evaluated thousands of iOS and Android applications. He also holds an M.A. in Education and Media Ecology from New York University.

Spirrison worked in concert with appoLearning Expert and Instructional Technology Specialist Leslie Morris while curating and evaluating educational applications.

A longtime media and technology commentator and executive, Spirrison is also a regular contributor to ABC News, The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Bloomberg West and The Christopher Gabriel Program.

Spirrison is married and lives with his wife and young son in Chicago. As his son was born just weeks before the debut of the iPad, Spirrison takes his work home with him and regularly samples and enjoys a variety of educational applications for young children.

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