Yesterday Twitter went into a blaze as users shared their concern with the new Pepsi ad starring Kendall Jenner. The ad features the 21-year-old supermodel in the middle of a photo shoot when she sees a protest march coming down the street. The commercial then shows signs reading, “Peace,” “join the movement” and “love.” Jenner then rips off her blond wig, (hands it to a black woman, I might add) wipes off her lipstick and joins the protest. The romanticized and visibly peaceful protest is far different from the ones that have saturated the streets of today.
In Pepsi’s ad, no one is upset, everyone seems happy, and the protest almost seems celebratory. The most triggering and problematic part of the ad is when Jenner fist-bumps one of the activists, (a black man with cornrows, again another poor choice) and grabs a can of Pepsi. Jenner then walks up to a police officer and hands him a Pepsi. The office takes a sip; a traditional Muslim woman snaps a photo and everyone cheers concluding the ad.
For this commercial to be released in the political climate that it was, shows the blatant level of insensitivity of Pepsi and its marketers. The ad did a poor job of making light of a very tense situation. Many argue that the final shot is a direct reflection of an iconic image from the Black Lives Matter Movement.
The Pepsi Ad has stirred up much satire and negative feedback from Twitter users.
pepsi is capitalizing off the real issue of police brutality against minorities and fixing it with a pepsi can lol
— jess (@JessikuhV) April 5, 2017
April 4th is also the anniversary of the death of Civil Rights Activist, Dr. Martin Luther King.
On April 4th, @pepsi thought it was a good idea to release an ad where a Kardashian is playing a Civil Rights heroine.
Abt sums it up…
— Bakari Sellers (@Bakari_Sellers) April 5, 2017
It makes no sense why anyone would think that this ad was appropriate or acceptable. The intention of ads is to draw publicity to a product. For Pepsi to commodify the severe issues of activism in society is just wrong. There should have been someone on the Pepsi marketing team to stop this ad before it was in production. Commercial ads like anything on television are pre-mediated. When the outline for the commercial was presented, someone should have said that this was not a good choice.
The commercial is a slap in the face to all of the activists who selflessly vindicate for the rights of the marginalized. The spot is insensitive to those who lost their lives fighting for what they believe in. Protesting and works of advocacy are to be taken seriously not commodified.
Unfortunately, Pepsi released a statement defending the ad, claiming it to be a “global ad that reflects people from different walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony.”
“We think that’s an important message to convey.”
Whether Pepsi thinks the ad is reflective of many perspectives or not; this ad is a poor execution of marketing and offensive. Let’s hope other companies take note of this marketing catastrophe and reconsider their campaigns before releasing something as distasteful as this parodied, protest-themed commercial.