Pepsi's Commercial Gone Wrong: Review
Finally, Pepsi has discovered a new solution to end police brutality against African Americans, a can of soda. Kendall Jenner starred in her first Pepsi advert that went horribly wrong. Leading Pepsi to pull the commercial for being too insensitive.
In the cheerful 2 minute and 39-second commercial, Pepsi has used language and the imagery of protest movements to sell their product. In the advertisement, Kendall Jenner has a role of a model who follows a cello musician into a protest portrayed after Black Lives Matter. This advert was taken down by Pepsi within hours of its released. The company apologized in a press release saying, "Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace, and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark and apologize. "
The ad shows the 22-year-old model in the middle of a photo shoot while protestors take to the streets nearby. In the commercial, she notices the movement in progress, tears off her blond wig and wipes the dark lipstick from her mouth to join the "movement”. This all builds up to the moment when Kendall Jenner breaks through the crowd and approaches a line of police officers to hand one of them a Pepsi can. Everyone cheers and high fives each other after that “brave action.”
The connection of Kendall Jenner, a white woman to Black Lives Matter is unclear. In fact, the whole entire commercial is unclear by not having a main focal point. For example, we see a brief still of trans women, a Muslim woman drawing and taking pictures, two random white women blowing a kissy face while making the “rock on” hand gesture, and finally, jolly Kendall Jenner giving high-fives to every African American as she makes her way to the front of the rally. It seems like Pepsi made a checklist to make sure that this commercial was multicultural enough by plugging in every minority group.
As the commercial continues, we hear the words “a new generation", "the movement, " and “we are the chosen” repeatedly. “Lions” by Skip Marley, grandson of Bob Marley, is the main song for this ad. The song calls to take action and make a difference while promoting strength and togetherness. However, this commercial failed to do so.
The infamous scene where Kendall hands the unarmed police officer is supposed to represent an actual protestor. This scene compares Kendall Jenner with the actual image of Leisha Evans in the Baton Rouge protest against police brutality in 2016. Leisha Evans is an African American woman who stood strong while being charged by police and was arrested for 24 hours. Pepsi lacked to show the resisting part in this commercial. Also, Pepsi oversimplifies what protests are all about. All over the world, people are protesting against police brutality or equal rights, and sometimes this comes at a great personal risk. The suggestion in this Pepsi advert signifies you can resolve some of these issues over a soft drink. With that being said, it is clear why people were offended.
Moving towards the end of the commercial, the multicultural diverse protestors return walking towards the camera with text that appears on the bottom of the screen, “ LIVE BOLDER. LIVE LOUDER. LIVE FOR NOW. ” What exactly did Kendall Jenner do to “live bolder?” Trayvon Martin, for example, was holding a soda when he was murdered in public by a security guard, George Zimmerman. This theme in a way is mocking other protests where we see thousands of people getting brutally attacked, killed, and arrested. It is important to point out that all of the creative team of this advert was dominantly white. According to Hollywood Reporter, six people who were involved with the ad were white and because of that maybe that justifies the insensitive nature of the commercial (Hollywood Reporter, pg. 2).
Half a year later, the supermodel shared on her show, Keeping Up With The Kardashians saying, “I just feel really, really bad. Like, I feel really bad that anyone was ever offended. I feel really bad that this was taken such a wrong way.” Whether to blame Kendall Jenner or not, Pepsi still should have known better.
Socially politically active people are effecting change all over the world, and they are not doing it with a soda can or a tall skinny model. Perhaps, Pepsi had good intentions but this is what happens when you mock important protests to gain profit.