PepsiCo iPhone app draws fire for stereotyping

MILWAUKEE (AP) - October 24, 2009 An apology by the company - which is using the app "Amp up before you score" to market its Amp energy drink - is igniting more online criticism. But the company is sticking by the app.

Spokeswoman Nicole Bradley said the application is available only to people 17 and older who "choose to opt in to the experience."

"The application was designed to entertain and appeal to Amp's target. We'll continue to monitor the feedback from all parties and act accordingly," she said.

The free application, released in the last week, was still available Wednesday morning.

PepsiCo probably won't take the application down immediately, so the chatter can continue, said Kevin Dugan, director of marketing at Empower Media Marketing in Cincinnati.

"I think their goal was to get noticed and, well, it looks like that strategy has paid off," Dugan said.

The application lets users select from stereotypes of women, like the "foreign exchange student" or "nerd" or "cougar." Then it offers possible pickup lines like, "Wasn't I in Space Academy with you?" for the nerd.

It also offers other hints, like links to world news for the foreign exchange student. For the "rebound girl" - who has just broken up with her boyfriend - it offers maps of local ice cream shops.

The app then lets users add women - along with name, date of the conquest and comments - to the user's "brag list," which can be shared online on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Social networking blog Mashable and other sites have been voicing outrage about the application. Mashable's headline Monday about the application said "Alienate your female customers? Pepsi has an app for that."

The article, and other criticisms, prompted the Amp brand to apologize on its Twitter page. It said the application, which is featured prominently on Amp's Web site, tries to show the "humorous lengths guys go 2 pick up women."

But it ignited a firestorm when it included the tag "pepsifail" on its apology this week. Twitter users use tags to mark their posts and track conversations. That tag linked the Purchase, N.Y.-based company - not just the Amp brand - to the situation and implied the company did something wrong by calling it a "fail."

The apology was also broadcast on PepsiCo's Pepsi and Mountain Dew soda brand pages on Twitter, further linking the Amp situation to the entire company.

The application is certainly aiming for Amp's target audience of males in their 20s and 30s, said John Sicher, editor and publisher of trade publication Beverage Digest.

"PepsiCo as a company has a culture that's respectful of women," he said, noting its CEO is a woman. "It's attempting to be edgy and humorous with this app and nothing more."

The relatively young brand posted a 4.1 percent sales increase in the first half of the year, while the $6.5 billion category was flat as consumers limited their purchases amid the recession. The brand ranks among the top five energy drinks in terms of volume: Monster, Red Bull, Rockstar, Amp and Coca-Cola's Full Throttle.

The brouhaha generated new downloads on Wednesday and hundreds of new comments from users of the program, negative, positive and neutral.

"This is a great app for men, horrible app for women," wrote one user, who gave it a top rating of five stars. "Only download this app if you have been around the block a few times with different types of women."

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