Early Tuesday, April 4th, the multi-billion dollar beverage brand known as Pepsi debuted a highly-controversial commercial featuring reality TV star Kendall Jenner. Critics are raving that Pepsi made light of civil rights protests and the Black Lives Matter movement; while it only took a few hours for Pepsi to pull the ad from circulation, it has since been the topic of discussion being pulled apart and dissected frame for frame via social media.
Although there wasn’t an apology at first, Pepsi gave an initial statement to Adweek stressing their interest in conveying a “spirit of harmony.” Since then, they tried to redeem themselves by releasing another statement saying, “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize,” the statement read. “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™ (@pepsi) April 5, 2017
While the company does seem rather remorseful, folks aren’t impressed; saying the commercial is insensitive and disconnected. Many are also voicing their anger towards Kendall Jenner, seeing as though she is made the star of the commercial. During the advertisement, Kendall is doing what seems like a photo shoot. As protesters pass her by she becomes intrigued to join; she then rips off her blonde wig and wipes off her makeup, becoming as it seems more “down to earth”…she is then met by radiant young protesters smiling and holding up vague signs with messages like “Join The Conversation.”
However, the moment that seems to strike viewers the most is when Kendall decides to hand a policeman who seems to be monitoring protesters a refreshing can of Pepsi as if to say that this gesture will cure all accounts of systemic racism or oppression. The cop then smiles and all is well again in the world; except that this isn’t the reality for most protesters who have been dragged, beaten and maced by law enforcement during the most violent and some nonviolent protests throughout history.
Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s daughter Bernice King took to Twitter late yesterday to voice her outrage with the following quote, “If only Daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi” along with a photo of her father being roughed up by police officers.
Other concerned parties are taking to social media with pretty strong feelings toward the advertisement’s message saying, “Imagine that you are brutally beaten every day for as long as you can remember and the story finally gets out and Nestle does a commercial with Scarlett Johansson having a stupid grin breaking a piece of a Kit Kat bar with your abuser. Then paying her six figures for that.”
While it is clear that the ad itself wasn’t Pepsi’s brightest idea, it did help to unify people via social media who are all recognizing that big name companies need to make a conscious effort to watch out for the messages that they are releasing to the masses.
Wouldn’t you agree?