On Tuesday Pepsi published the two and a half minute ad that shows model Kendall Jenner in the middle of a peaceful protest. They stated, “Pepsi was trying to project a message of unity, peace and understanding.”
The ad instantly went viral. It was followed by serious accusations as people felt Pepsi’s ad was mocking the Black Lives Matter movement and other protests, thus belittling and glamourising them.
At the end of the ad, Jenner takes a can of Pepsi and hands it to one of the police officers, at the police barrier. He calmly takes it and Jenner returns to the suddenly cheering crowd. It all ends with the slogan ‘live bolder, live louder, live for now’.
“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
“No one is finding joy from Pepsi at a protest,” said Elle Hearns, an organiser for Black Lives Matter. “That’s just not the reality of our lives. That’s not what it looks like to take bold action.”
Martin Luther King’s daughter, Bernice King tweeted, “If only Daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi.”
The brand used scenarios, which allegedly appear to be very similar to pictures taken of the protestor Ieshia Evans, who was arrested after confronting a police barrier, in 2016.
Pepsi apologised one day after the release and deleted the advert from its official Twitter and Facebook sites.
Kendall Jenner has not commented on the issue yet.
“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are removing the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.” – Pepsi
What I think
To my mind, Pepsi did miss the mark and represented the fight for human rights as a simple social trend. It really is a ‘tone-deaf’ advertisement, as it is often described on Twitter, yet some of the critics seem to be quite over the top. According to some, Pepsi choosing a black female to be Kendall Jenner’s stylist, for instance, depicts white privilege. And this is only one of many similar comments made.
Statements like this make the issue appear more problematic than it actually is. I do agree that the material chosen is not appropriate for commercials, but that is the only problem I see in the matter. This is especially because Pepsi’s intentions were clear from the beginning, ie. to present peaceful affirmation for each other and create an idealistic event.
It was not meant to show real imagery of what a protest looks like. It was meant to promote a drink.
But all in all, I believe it was definitely the right decision to take the advert down, and to apologise to all who might have been offended by its content. After all, protests for human rights are an important issue, and should be taken seriously.
What is your opinion on Pepsi’s advert? Let me know what you think about it.