Sexist ad campaign falls short

“It’s Not For Women.” With a slogan like that in Terminator-esque font, it’s no wonder Dr Pepper Ten has come under fire for sexist marketing.

TV ads, radio spots and a Facebook page asking “Are You Man Enough?” provoked feminist outrage when the campaign launched last October.

Max Rubin | Daily Trojan

The soda seemed to fly under the radar for a few months, but in the last few weeks there has been a renewed radio and television push for the drink. And Seeds Marketplace has added the soda to its beverages section.

Fellow Trojans: Don’t buy the stuff, lest you reinforce the idea that sexist advertising works. Let Dr. Pepper Ten die — and let it remind other brands to think twice before excluding an entire gender.

Dr Pepper has never been one for conventional advertising. While Coca-Cola has a stranglehold on Santa Claus and polar bears and while Pepsi uses danceclub scenes to hawk its bubbly, Dr Pepper has opted for T-shirt-ready slogans, such as “Wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper, too?” and claymation fairytale support groups. Going non-traditional with a gender-specific campaign like this one is yet another bold move in Dr Pepper’s marketing repertoire, but it might cost them loyal customers.

If Dr Pepper was trying to imitate the Old Spice guy, it missed by a mile. Instead of simply adopting a masculine tone, the ads specifically exclude women. It’s the Little Rascals of diet drinks: No Girls Allowed.

The commercials lay it out clearly: With Dr Pepper Ten, “You can keep the romantic comedies and lady drinks. We’re good.”

By gearing the ads so intensely toward men, Dr Pepper is reducing potential profits. The company is alienating half the soda drinking population before they even pop the tab.

Was launching Dr Pepper Ten and marketing it to an exclusively male customer-base a solid business decision? Not even close. Making minute, insignificant changes to an existing product and repackaging it will only compromise the existing market for lower calorie Dr Pepper.

You have to question why anyone saw Dr Pepper Ten as necessary in the first place. According to Dave Fleming, Dr Pepper-Snapple Group’s director of marketing, the company was responding to male consumers’ demand for “a low calorie option with the full flavor of regular Dr Pepper.”

Isn’t the entire Diet Dr Pepper campaign based on the idea that it tastes more like its forebearing full-calorie soda than any other diet drink? To produce another diet soda negates Diet Dr Pepper’s main selling point. It’s not a particularly “girly” advertising strategy, so why go so masculine?

And if the company truly believed that it is not reaching calorie-conscious men with the current Diet Dr Pepper ads, why not just try a different marketing strategy?

It’s better than blindly investing in the cost of researching, producing and marketing an entirely different soda. That is poor business.

Dr Pepper Ten appeals to one type of man. Blatant sexism aside, the ad campaign suggests that the soda is only suitable for men who like explosions, guns and car chases. I guess it isn’t for men who enjoy the occasional piña colada or episode of Grey’s Anatomy.

According to, the mid-calorie offering still has copious amounts of aspartame, the sweetening agent that has raised eyebrows regarding carcinogenicity. That knocks out any health-conscious people — male or female — who might have chosen Dr Pepper Ten as an alternative.

Of course, all this seems like speculation — until you take a look at Dr. Pepper’s Brand Index Buzz scores. The Brand Index scores are to consumer goods what approval ratings are to the president: They gauge customer appreciation on any given brand. At the launch of Dr Pepper Ten, Dr Pepper took an immediate hit. Within a week, their buzz score dropped five points among men and 14 points among women.

They may be the 10 hardest working calories in soda, but effort doesn’t always make up for idiocy.


Katherine Moncrief is a senior majoring in international relations. 

6 replies
  1. Major General
    Major General says:

    As far as being a poor business decision, let me tell you right now its a solid, effective one. The reason why lies with the fact that women, and “men who enjoy the occasional pina colada” as you put it, already enjoy the existing diet drinks. The alpha male is currently a market that has not been reached by a diet beverage, so Dr. Pepper can reach this demographic through these targeted advertisements without cannibalizing their other product lines. On top of this, if their advertising was more “inclusive,” its appeal to alpha males would vanish and it would likely fail flat on its face–either attracting few new customers or cannibalizing existing customers from other product lines like Diet Dr. Pepper.

    My background is as a finance major and have worked finance internships outside of school so I can tell you right now that a discounted cash flow of this project would take out any cannibalization of existing lines; the targeted appeal was a solid business decision. I am curious what your business background is which gave you grounds to analyze it from that standpoint.

    The point of my comment is this: If you are against it in principle, please continue to enlighten us on the ethics of sexist marketing. But do not hide behind calling this a poor business decision because you want it to fail for non-business reasons and use that as the basis for insulting their intelligence. Its unfortunate that non-business majors will likely believe your bogus claims.

  2. Jess
    Jess says:

    Crazy, you aren’t really making much of a point there, since you are actually talking about things biologically designed for a certain gender, species, whatnot. Unless they’ve done something to soda that I don’t know about, it isn’t actually designed specifically for male physiology.

    I’m not one to get all riled up over this kind of thing, but I do see blatant sexism in this particular marketing plan, which seems downright illogical for a business to do..risk alienate half of their consumers? Why?

  3. Ras
    Ras says:

    Katherine, getting your panties in a bunch over these ads is like a man getting upset over Virginia Slims cigarettes making men feel they are being excluded. Why would a cigarette company exclude half the population for dear sakes ! This is a clear sign our politically over-correct society has gone completely crazy and seek to be offended when no offense exists. Please feel free to not be offended. Believe me it may feel hard at first but it is really possible. BTW, I am sure your reaction is exactly what Dr Pepper ppl were looking for. They are thanking you for a full page ad in the DT bringing attention to their product.

    • CrazyAsianLady
      CrazyAsianLady says:

      I completely agree with you, Ras. And I’m a female. Let’s also cite Secret antiperspirant: “Strong enough for a man, but pH balanced for a woman.” Coke did it with Tab Pink as well, marketing to women. We middle-aged folk ought to be outraged about products marketed to only young people. Or mad that Centrum Silver is only for the elderly. Or that only dogs should eat dog food. Enough already!

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