Thursday, July 8, 2010

Quick words on Pepsigeddon

(If you don't follow ScienceBlogs at all, the best summary of this controversy I have found so far is, paradoxically, located at The Loom, a former ScienceBlog that moved to Discover Magazine. Quick summary: ScienceBlogs added a blog sponsored by PepsiCo; people are pissed.)

Seed did a terrible job at managing this -- they should have known there would be resistance to a name like PepsiCo sharing billing on ScienceBlogs, and they should have consulted their bloggers about how to announce it, how to label it, etc. At the very least, they should have given them a heads-up!

I'm also a little puzzled by what PepsiCo is going to talk about. The intro post talks about using "behavioral economics" to "improve health outcomes around the world"... I thought PepsiCo mostly used behavioral economics to sell people stuff?

That said, I do think the reaction is a little overblown. Karl Zimmer eloquently sums up what a lot of the angry SciBloggers are saying:

...Bly seems to justify the Pepsi affair by saying Scienceblogs has hosted blogs from corporations before. Somehow that means this new situation is okay. I can’t stop thinking of the line from As You Like It, “More villain thou.”

PepsiCo is more "villainous" than Shell? I'm not so sure about that, guys... Pepsi might be shortening lives, but they aren't setting us up for an ice-cap meltin' Armageddon...!

I suppose it feels more dirty co-residing with a shill blog for Pepsi than a shill blog for Shell, because the latter is -- in practice -- more concerned with marketing to lobbyists, while the former is targeting the consumer. It's not like if Shell stops advertising, people are going to stop consuming fossil fuels. But if Pepsi stops advertising... So yeah, I guess I can see that. Allowing Shell to sponsor a blog on ScienceBlogs is not going to make a substantive difference in the public conversation about fossil fuels (unless they go all AGW-denialist, but obviously nobody is going to stand for that on ScienceBlogs). On the other hand, we could imagine PepsiCo influencing the public conversation to their benefit.

In any case, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Update: I may have just changed my mind about how serious this is... reading about all controversy is making me crave a cola. Seriously. In fact, I think I might go get one. I rarely drink soda (I'm a coffee and beer guy personally), probably no more than a couple times a month usually. So this is not a typical craving for me. Wow, it's working already...


  1. Seriously? You're craving a soda now? No, really I want to know if you are serious and not just being a bit snarky.

    Not that I don't appreciate snark. It's one of my favorite mental snack foods, but I'm trying to wrap my brain around craving something just because it's mentioned in writing.

    Occasionally a picture can spur a momentary desire for something, but it's a weak effect.

    Verbal mention, especially by someone with a drool in their voice... yeah, I've been known to join them in their craving.

    I'm not even influenced in that direction by cooking shows though I'm often interested in trying a technique or unusual food combination.

    Smelling something delicious cooking really works a number on me. I have a neighbor who bakes bread regularly.

    But I can read about food all day and it doesn't make me hungry.

    The only time I remember ever craving a soda was when I had a hangover and I long ago learned not to drink that much.

    I'm not a purist or anything and I do drink sodas occasionally, especially if there's no coffee available.

    So... are you serious?

  2. No, I was totally serious.

    Like I say, soda is not really my thing. I'm more of a bitter beverage guy -- coffee, beer, especially very hoppy bitter beers, etc. But every now and then I go for a soda.

    And reading "PepsiCo" about 80 times in a morning made me start craving a Pepsi. I'm not proud of it. It's just what happened.

    Now, the fact that it's a frakkin' heat wave probably didn't help... You know, I was probably thirsty anyway (though water would surely have been superior for those purposes) so the suggestive effect had an easy opening.

    And who knows, it could have been coincidence. I don't approve of soda nutritionally, ideologically, or gastronomically, so those once or twice a month (and that's a high estimate -- I'm pretty sure there have been times I've gone 6+ months without a soda, just because it never occurred to me to drink one) when I do indulge in it, those are the time I find myself just really craving carbonated sugar water all of a sudden, i.e. if I were to choose to have a soda under normal circumstances, it would still be a sudden craving like this. But the timing is suspicious to say the least...

  3. Fascinating...

    All the time I was reading about the SB/Pepsi fiasco, the only food item that really entered my mind was tacos. I still associate Taco Bell with them. (And wonder how much influence/control Pepsi has over Yum.)

    But I didn't experience any craving for tacos. I only eat at Taco Bell when my oldest child (age 35!) drags me there and I always order the regular tacos.

    I would never claim that my husband and I eat healthy or eschew convenience foods, but we seldom eat out or eat take out.

    I just thought of something... I had about given up coffee until PalMD wrote what I call his "coffee porn" post. I take it all back, those words did spur me to make a pot. Of course, there was a lot of drool in that post.

  4. Heh, I went and got a cup of coffee immediately after reading about PalMD giving up coffee.

    I don't like to think I am that susceptible to suggestion, but... meh, what's a primate to do?

  5. Haha!! Please don't move my lever!