File this under, “What were they thinking?!” Pepsi’s latest commercial hit the airwaves yesterday and the backlash was immediate. The commercial was seen as tone-deaf for having borrowed images from recent Black Lives Matter protests.
The ad featured Kendall Jenner, a reality TV star from the Keeping Up With the Kardashians show. In the commercial, Jenner is at work on a modelling shoot and steps away to join a crowd of protesters.
The crowd is made up of young people holding up innocuous signs reading, “Join the Conversation.” Other signs contain hearts and peace signs.
In the commercial, Jenner breaks away from the crowd and offers a police officer a can of Pepsi. The officer than opens the can, takes a sip and smiles. The crowd behind Jenner breaks out into cheers.
“Live bolder. Live louder. Live for now,” then appears on the screen.
Struck a Nerve
The ad struck a nerve for several reasons, none more so than for it’s similarity to a Black Lives Matter protest last year. Ieshia Evans, a young black woman, stood her ground while offering her hands for arrest during a protest in Baton Rouge.
To some, watching Jenner offer a police officer a can of Pepsi mocked both Evans and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Many also felt that Pepsi was co-opting on the social justice protests that have taken place this year to sell their product.
Critics took to Twitter to voice their outrage, including Bernice King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter.
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) April 5, 2017
Whatever happens today, just remember it could be worse.
You could be the global marketing director of #PEPSI
— The All New DomShow (@TheNewDomShow) April 5, 2017
— Niall Cole (@cole_niall) April 5, 2017
So all us dark people have to do is convince a cop that the Pepsi we’re holding isn’t a gun.
— Kashana (@kashanacauley) April 4, 2017
That’s all I got.
— Brittany Packnett (@MsPackyetti) April 4, 2017
Yesterday, while negative comments about the ad were mounting, Pepsi stood by the commercial. A rep from the company told Adweek. “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.”
Jenner herself was thrilled to join the list of celebrities to have worked with Pepsi. “To me, Pepsi is more than just a beverage—it registers as a pop culture icon and a lifestyle that shares a voice with the generation of today. The spirit of Pepsi—living in the ‘now’ moment—is one that I believe in. I make a conscious effort in my everyday life and travels to enjoy every experience of today.”
Today, Pepsi announced that it was pulling the ad and stopping it’s roll-out.
“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding,” the company said in a statement. “Clearly we missed the mark and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”
Pepsi took the ad down from YouTube. Since nothing is ever really deleted off of the Internet, you can watch the ad in it’s entirety below: