Let’s Talk About that Pepsi Ad


UPDATE: Pepsi has now apologized for the ad and officially pulled the video from Youtube. The company has released the following statement: “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace, and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize… We do not intend to make light of any serious issue…We are removing the comment and halting any further rollout.” Let’s hope this is a warning to other brands that try to use social issues as marketing tools. 

Oh Pepsi how could you have not seen just how bad this idea was?!?! It should have been obvious to anyone with any common sense that this was going to end up being a PR nightmare.

If for some reason you don’t understand where this is going, Pepsi released a new ad campaign yesterday starring Kendall Jenner. I tried to link the original video from the Pepsi Facebook page, but while the page still shows the original posting, the link appears to be broken. Anyway in the ad Jenner is shown modeling while a group of protesters march down the street. It is not exactly clear what they are actually protesting, but their signs read “Love” and “Join the Conversation” so I’m not sure that Pepsi actually had a specific conversation in mind…. Anyway Jenner then proceeds to rip off her blonde wig, wipe off her makeup, and then join the crowd. Police officers block the protesters way but not to worry because Pepsi is here to save the day!! Like the photos of Vietnam War protesters placing flowers down the barrels of officers’ rifles or the now iconic image of Black Lives Matter protester Ieshia Evans being arrested in front of police line in Louisiana, Kendall bravely steps forward to offer a can of Pepsi as a peace offering. Except it is nothing like the first two things and why Pepsi dared to compare it to actual protesters risking their actual lives for an actual cause is beyond me.

Elle Hearns, the executive director of the Marsha P. Johnson Institute and formerly an organizer for Black Lives Matter, said the ad “plays down the sacrifices people have historically taken in utilizing protests…No one is finding joy from Pepsi at a protest,” she said. “That’s just not the reality of our lives. That’s not what it looks like to take bold action.”

This is exactly like when companies uses feminism and environmentalism to market products while doing absolutely nothing to help the cause. Worse, this ad makes protesting seem trendy and fun. Something that can be done casually, without the very real risk of arrest or possible bodily harm. Pepsi is trying so hard to be seen as “woke” that it comes off offensive and tone-deaf. It is so clear that PepsiCo is attempting to profit from the protester mindset and frankly, it’s pathetic.  The fact that the ad uses Kendall Jenner to bridge the “gap” between the protesters and the police adds salt to the wound. Kendall Jenner, a white, insanely wealthy, and privileged celebrity would of course have no fear stepping up to a police officer. Also, Pepsi makes it seem that the issues people are protesting over can be fixed with a simple peace offering, or better yet a can of Pepsi. Twitter has been quick to point out all of the problematic aspects of this campaign and it is causing a PR nightmare for Pepsi. Frankly, I believe all of the nightmare is deserving.

Twitter users have also created the hashtag #PepsiLivesMatter to further call out and make fun of the campaign. Pepsi has had to release a statement following the backlash:”This is a global ad that reflects people from different walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony, and we think that’s an important message to convey,” Pepsi said in a statement to Business Insider. The company has not apologized or pulled the ad.

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