About a month ago Pepsi launched a free iPhone app for their Amp energy drink that's getting Red Bull-sized buzz for all the wrong reasons. "Amp Up Before You Score" arms its users with helpful tips (pickup lines and motel locations) to score with (or get slapped by) 24 different types of women. After you've scored you can use the app to save the details of your conquests and post them to your Facebook wall and to Twitter.
When I heard about "Amp Up" and all of the outrage it was generating I knew I had to see it in action - I'm a card carrying feminist who went to an all women's college and was raised on a strict diet of Naomi Wolfe and Joan Crawford. I couldn't wait to be outraged. Then I downloaded the app.
I was offended all right, but mostly by the terrible illustrations of the 24 women. Isn't this Pepsi? Don't they have some cash? The women on the app look like model illustrations from the Duluth Penny Saver. Since when do hot girls have dinosaur arms, zombie eyes and skulls straight out of Whitley Strieber's "Communion?"
Ok, ok, we all know women shouldn't be bucketed neatly into 24 stereotypes. It's objectifying. But haven't we to some extent brought this on ourselves? After all, the longest running reality series on ABC, The Bachelor shows stereotyped women season after season whose single goal in life is to get married even if they have to be humiliated on national TV to do it. How many of the tens of millions of viewers of The Bachelor are men? My guess is not many. E's hottest show, The Girls Next Door, which also has a huge female fan base, is about how great life is when you take your clothes off for strangers and shack up with a man who was born when Calvin Coolidge was President. And don't even get me started on the Kardashians. Women have been allowing themselves to be humiliated and objectified by the media way before Pepsi Amp got in the game.
Let's get one thing straight, there is no one on the planet who would actually use this to pick up girls. If a guy needs help picking up women, he certainly doesn't do it by whipping out his iPod in the middle of a conversation. And if he's pathetic enough to use the app's "bragging feature" than he's a cad who's certainly not going to score again - at least not with anyone on his friends list.
This app was designed to generate buzz for a product, which it has. But unlike the old adage, all press is no longer good press. Most women who see a guy holding Amp will now have a bad taste in their mouths--one less reason for a guy to buy it. So the company whose single greatest marketing coup to date was setting Michael Jackson's hair on fire can now add another notch to their belt. It's hard to create a campaign that turns off one half of your audience and makes the other half question whether its publicly acceptable to use your product. Way to go Pepsi!