“Sorry, we’re all out of Coke, is Pepsi OK?” Apparently not anymore.
Pepsi and Kendall Jenner have both been on the receiving end of criticism due to an advertisement that was released Tuesday that has already been taken down due to intense backlash.
The two-minute version of the ad depicts model Jenner in a short, blonde wig being professionally photographed as a huge march of young protestors make their way down a city block. The crowd gets her attention. She looks at them and gives a look that says “Hm, I wonder what all these people are protesting about?” The people in the crowds are holding up non-specific signs that say “Join The Conversation” or have peace signs drawn. Jenner makes eye contact with a man in the protest. He gives her a nod to join them, and she then rips her blonde wig off, smears away her lipstick and joins.
Once Jenner is in the march, everything is fine and dandy. People are laughing and having a jolly good time marching for whatever it is they’re supposed to be marching for. Jenner grabs a Pepsi out of a bucket and makes a decision that most people today would advise against.
She walks right up to the line of police officers and hands one a Pepsi. A woman in a hijab then pulls out her camera and snaps a shot of the moment. Then, every single person in the ad is ecstatic and, all of a sudden, wow, peace has been attained finally.
I don’t think so, Pepsi.
This ad is a ridiculous money-making ploy aimed at people who want to feel like they’re fighting for a cause or being activists. The ad depicts serious issues and protesting as a fun, cool trend everyone is doing.
This ad is normalizing all the insanity that is going on in our world right now.
Maybe in a perfect world protests are like parties where people dance, share drinks with cops and end police brutality or close the gender wage gap. But, unfortunately, that is not the reality we live in today.
When Jenner walked up to the police officer, she was not yelled at, pepper-sprayed or dragged to the ground.
Last July, during a police brutality protest in Baton Rouge, Ieshia Evans, who was wearing a sun dress and unarmed, calmly approached officers the same way Jenner did. However, she was rushed by officers in riot gear and arrested shortly after her iconic photograph was taken — the photograph Pepsi seemed to try to recreate with Jenner.
I understand that advertisements are not real life and are meant to attract consumers as well as generate interest in a product. No company would want to put out a negative ad on purpose. But there were so many better ways Pepsi could have depicted young people trying to create change rather than walking with vague signs, drinking soda and letting a white, privileged woman who has absolutely nothing to do with politics or social injustices lead them.
Pepsi isn’t the first company to receive backlash after putting out unknowingly-offensive material. Nivea pulled its “White is Purity” campaign for deodorant recently after receiving comments suggesting the company was racist. To make it worse, a white supremacist group sent Nivea a message saying they were glad the company agreed with their views and included “#WhiteIsPurity” at the end. The ad was quickly pulled, and an apology was administered to the public.
Pepsi was trying to send a positive message but obviously missed the mark completely. Social injustices cannot be fixed with a can of soda.
Two days after the ad was released, Beatrice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., sent out a Tweet that summarized what many were feeling about the absurdity of the ad.
“If only Daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi,” King Tweeted along with a black-and-white photograph of her father being pushed by a police officer.
Some large companies have a great influence over consumers. What those companies put out to the world is extremely important because if they send a particular message, others might just blindly follow.
It’s 2017, and people should know by now that everything in the media is hyper-analyzed with a high-powered microscope. I find it hard to believe that not one employee at Pepsi thought to suggest that maybe the ad might be insensitive tooward real-life issues. It goes to show how blind some people still are to the injustices affecting millions of people every day.
Email Laura Schmidt at firstname.lastname@example.org