Evolutionary Dr Pepper ad spurs religious kerfuffle

Sep. 20, 2012 at 2:22 PM ET

Dr Pepper /
This ad has created an online uproar.

Dr Pepper marched directly into controversy a week ago when it launched its “March of Progress” ad campaign. And the uproar has not abated. 

On Sept. 13, the soft drink maker posted to its Facebook wall an ad using the classic “March of Progress” image tweaked to promote the “evolution of flavor.” The whimsical ad showed a chimpanzee dragging his knuckles, followed by a semi-erect hominid reaching for a Dr Pepper, followed by a fully upright man walking and gulping a Dr Pepper. The images are captioned “Pre-Pepper,” “Pepper Discovery,” and “Post-Pepper” respectively. 

Sounds harmless. Even banal. But about 7,000 comment and nearly 33,000 likes later, the ad is still provoking reaction by creationists who say it promotes the theory of evolution. Some are even threatening to boycott Dr Pepper. That in turn has stoked evolutionists to make counter comments. Then there's folks jumping on the pig pile just for laughs. 

After all, we are talking about a soda pop ad, right? 

At first, most of the comments on Facebook were lighthearted jokes about the image. A few comments from disappointed Christians began to crop up. Soon an evolution vs. creationism debate dominated the conversation, along with heaps of jeers at anyone taking the issue seriously. 

“No we didn't come from apes,” wrote one user. “Lord Jesus pep can be blinded. If we came from apes why is there still apes [sic]” 

“This is showing the theory of men evolving from apes I have lost all respect for Dr Pepper,” wrote another, who threatened to use his connections with various colleges to get them to pull Dr Pepper from their schools. 

Comments like these prompted cries of “get over it!”, “really?” and, “The day your faith is shaken by a Dr Pepper ad is the day you should probably start reconsidering your faith.” 

The debate also blew up on popular link-sharing site Reddit, whose users flooded the thread to mock the outrage and post parody comment, further inflaming the debate and spreading the conversation to their friend's Facebook newsfeeds. 

“Frankly I'm surprised at how quickly it escalated and how big the thread became,” Reddit user undercoverrocker, who first posted the image to Reddit, told NBC News. The Redditer requested to remain anonymous to protect his privacy. Within a couple of hours any semblance of a real debate had evaporated, undercoverrocker said, becoming “trolls trolling trolls.” The term “trolls” and “trolling” refers to comments posted online where the person doesn't so much believe their substance as delight in the angry comments they provoke from others. 

Adfreak nailed it, writing, "Once again, though, it goes to show how protests can spread like wildfire in social media, where outrage — and counteroutrage — are just a click away." 

Dr Pepper has posted over 450 images to its Facebook wall since 2009. Previous images have asked for followers to identify their favorite Dr Pepper flavor, to identify which time of the day is best for drinking Dr Pepper, and asking if they liked their Dr Pepper fizzy or not. Most garnered a few hundred comments. Messages left with Dr Pepper Snapple Group seeking comment were not returned.

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