By Coshandra Dillard
Pepsi pulled the ad on Wednesday and released a statement:
— Pepsi™ (@pepsi) April 5, 2017
People aren’t happy about Pepsi’s new commercial, which hit the Internet on Tuesday and trended all day on Twitter. The advertisement was an attempt to speak to politically and socially conscious millennials, particularly those who have been involved in Black Lives Matter demonstrations. That’s nothing new. Corporations have always found ways to address societal issues and take a stand. But this one fell flat.
The ad is reminiscent of a Saturday Night Live sketch, in which a group of sales people attempt to pitch ideas that exploit current societal issues to advertising executives. Except, people weren’t laughing this time.
The more than two-minute ad features celebrity Kendall Jenner on a modeling assignment as a protest gets underway in a city street. Protestors hold signs that read “Join the Conversation.” They smile, dance and march.
When Jenner notices the crowd, she rips off her blonde wig and joins the action. As the crowd approaches a line of riot police officers, Jenner offers one a can of Pepsi. The officer drinks the soft drink, smiles, and the crowd cheers. The model has saved the day.
All it takes to end police brutality is Pepsi, eh?
The disdain for the commercial was swift. Activists say it co-opted a movement in which black people, particularly black women, were at the forefront. Critics felt it was an insult to use a white model who happens to be a member of the rich and appropriating Kardashian clan, as the heroine of the movement; and who also had not been vocal about police brutality and other issues related to marginalized groups.
The scene where she approaches the officers resembles the famous photo of Ieshia Evans facing police in riot gear, during a protest that followed the death of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge last summer. It ended with her getting arrested.
— Karen Powell Sears (@100happymoments) March 16, 2017
Critics also noted the importance of having diverse voices involved in such corporate decisions, and the need for those voices to challenge the culturally inept.
Of course, Black Twitter was not going to let this slide:
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) April 5, 2017
At some point we should wonder why our movements & iconography can be commercially exploited so easily. This Pepsi ad is a symptom of that.
— Dwayne David Paul (@DwayneDavidPaul) April 5, 2017
“Kendall please! Give him a Pepsi!” pic.twitter.com/IntFNmCpTr
— Zito (@_Zeets) April 4, 2017
“Aye…tell Jesse to get a 6-pack of Pepsi and bring it to Selma. I’ll explain later…” pic.twitter.com/5VElyQqC0W
— Suge Night Shyamalan (@B_Effin_G) April 5, 2017
— Jem (@Jem137) April 5, 2017
— Jesus isMy President (@VousEtesBelleee) April 5, 2017
100% chance my Pepsi gets mistaken for a gun and I’m dead in that situation
— David Dennis Jr. (@DavidDTSS) April 4, 2017
pepsi you need this disclaimer pic.twitter.com/x8XmT59Vpf
— Matt Dxgges (@sequentialmatt) April 4, 2017