At Least 8 Reasons Why Kendall’s Pepsi Ad Was All Kinds of Wrong

Activism… so hot right now

Ishani Nath
Kendall Jenner's Pepsi ad

(Photo: YouTube)

Pepsi’s latest ad fell real flat.

The two-and-a-half minute commercial depicts Kendall Jenner doing her model thang, casually distracted by a mass protest of hip, smiling and v. photogenic people happening right beside her photo shoot. (Rude!) But at the coy nod from a hot young protester, Jenner decides to rip off her wig, rub off her makeup and join the Pepsi-blue resistance. Clad in “girl-next-door” jeans and natural makeup, Jenner receives celebratory fist-bumps for joining the non-descript protest.

And then, OH AND THEN, she sashays right on up to the line of stern police officers and hands one a Pepsi. He grins, pops the tab and takes a sip—prompting cheers from the crowd and smiles from his fellow officers.

Forget civil protests and organized demonstrations—low-cal, sugar-free soda is really the key to the world’s problems!

How refreshing.

Instead, Pepsi’s attempt at getting “woke” just elicited a whole lot of nope from social media users who quickly eviscerated the tone-deaf spot.

While Jenner stole the focus, social media users also pointed out that the portrayal of minority groups missed the mark, too. A side story in the ad depicts a young photographer—wearing a hijab and a nose ring—poring over her photographs and feeling frustrated. Like Jenner, she sees the march outside her window and decides to join. She ultimately snaps the pic, reminiscent of the award-winning photo taken at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Baton Rouge, LA—and yet oh-so-far from that in reality.

Pepsi is not the first to try and incorporate the spirit of the resistance into their ads. A quick look at the top Super Bowl 2017 commercials reveals strong, albeit branded, messages about immigration, inclusivity and diversity. Unfortunately the only message that Pepsi sent with their commercial was that they don’t have a real stance on any of the pressing issues fueling the real resistance.

“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,” Pepsi said in a statement released in response to the backlash.

TBH, after watching the ad a few times through, I’m still unclear as to what these people were harmoniously coming together about. Is it a demonstration by overly enthusiastic Pepsi fans, marching in defense of their support for Pepsi, holding signs encouraging everyone to “Join the conversation” about their choice in soda? Because that would be the only way that this mess would make any sense.

The ad ends with a directive: “Live Bolder. Live Louder.”

And from the sounds of it, people are taking that it to heart, now boldly and loudly calling for a boycott of Pepsi.

UPDATE: After this story was published, Pepsi issued a statement saying: “Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize. 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.” 

But let’s be real, the ad may be gone, but it will not be forgotten. 

Related:
Anne T. Donahue on the Pepsi Implosion: Where’s Kendall’s Apology?
All the Times the Kardashians Were So, So Tone-Deaf
You Marched. Now What? The Next Step for Canadian Women
“Why I’m Marching”: 32 Women on the Women’s March

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