Pepsi released a new ad starring model Kendall Jenner this week and quickly found themselves under fire from a number of viewers. Was the ad, starring one of the most famous models in the world today, too sexy? Nope. Actually, in this case that would’ve been a much better option.
Instead, many viewers are outraged over the soda company’s apparent efforts to co-opt civil liberties movements.
In the new ad, Jenner stars as, what else, a model. The Keeping Up With The Kardashians star is in the middle of the photo shoot when she notices that thousands of people have taken to the streets in protest. What are they protesting? We don’t know. But Jenner sees a long line and decides to get in it.
Other uninformed, ethnically diverse bystanders, including a cello player and a photographer, decide to also drop what they’re doing and join in, taking to the streets in protest as Skip Marley’s “Lion” plays in the background.
Ditching her photo shoot and the blonde wig she had been sporting, Jenner’s moment of wokeness culminates in the model offering a can of Pepsi to a police officer who is barricading protesters. Again, from what? We don’t know. The now-smiling police officer accepts the Pepsi and thanks to the bravery of one beautiful white woman, racism/homophobia/poverty/war/bad wigs have been eradicated from society forever. Ahhhhh, refreshing.
While the advertisement does its best to show a wide range of people from various racial and ethnic backgrounds coming together in peace, love and harmony, its re-creation of actual political images and similarities to anti-Trump and Black Lives Matters protests is not sitting well with many people.
Social media erupted this week with criticism of the ad, with many pointing out that Jenner’s peace offering of a can of Pepsi looks like a recreation of the iconic ‘Tank Man of Tienanmen Square’and ‘Taking a Stand in Baton Rouge,’ an image of Ieshia Evans moments before she was arrested for peacefully protesting at a Black Lives Matter rally in Louisiana in 2016.
— Amanda (@Amanda_Barlow) April 4, 2017
Pepsi issued a statement on the new ad, with the global company saying “The creative showcases a moment of unity, and a point where multiple story lines converge in the final advert. It depicts various groups of people embracing a spontaneous moment, and showcasing Pepsi’s brand rallying cry to ‘Live For Now,’ in an exploration of what that truly means to live life unbounded, unfiltered and uninhibited.”
While Pepsi may be thirsty for fans, the internet is not ready to take a swig.
Michael Jackson almost burned alive on the set of a Pepsi commercial and today that became the second worst moment in Pepsi history
— Russell (@RussellFalcon) April 5, 2017
J. Edgar Hoover takes aim from the grassy knoll. The motorcade approaches. He fires. JFK raises a #Pepsi to his lips, blocks the bullet.
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) April 5, 2017
how nice of Kendall Jenner to stop in the middle of her photo shoot to end social injustices by giving that cop a Pepsi 😍 MLK who? Rosa who?
— reggie (@1942bs) April 4, 2017
So we should just give Putin & Assad & Trump a can of Pepsi & everything will be fine?
— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) April 4, 2017
who else is reminded of Dr Martin Luther King’s famously resonant “I have a Pepsi” speech pic.twitter.com/xX5h3it3d1
— Scott Ludlam (@SenatorLudlam) April 4, 2017
As journalist Dorian Lynskey points out, The Chemical Brothers used a similar premise for their 1999 video “Out of Control” starring Rosario Dawson. The video shows Dawson attempting to escape a riot, only to come face to face with police officers, finally giving up and taking a drink from a bottle of soda. The camera pans out to reveal that setting was for a soft drink commercial, because who would actually think a soda could end violence? Oh right.
The Chemical Brothers and Wiz predicted both the Pepsi video and the backlash in 1999. https://t.co/R73yBjJ46E
— Dorian Lynskey (@Dorianlynskey) April 5, 2017
It looks like Pepsi is still capable of making some responsible decisions, with the company deciding to pull the ad amidst the outcry. The company posted an apology on their Twitter account, specifically apologizing for the difficult position Jenner has been put in because of the ad. We think she’ll be fine.
Maybe not the millions of Muslim’s being banned from the US, or people of colour being racially targeted by police, or Americans about to lose their healthcare under the Trump administration, but yeah, Kendall Jenner should be coolio.
— Pepsi™ (@pepsi) April 5, 2017