Pepsi Protest Commercial Undermines Social Issues

Photo courtesy of Disney ABC Television Group, Flickr

On Tuesday April 4, Pepsi uploaded what they thought would be a well-received and praised advertisement for their world famous soft drink.  What ended up happening however was the exact opposite.

The advertisment, which was posted to their YouTube page, featured people marching through the streets in protest.  They held up signs with sayings such as “Join the Conversation” and “Peace” whilst attracting the attention of various artists and creators as they went.  They eventually caught the attention of Kendall Jenner who abandons her modeling photoshoot to assumably “Join the Conversation."

She grabs a Pepsi and heads to the front lines of the protest, where the police standoff is occurring.  She hands off the Pepsi to one of the officers and is met with immediate praise and celebration from the surrounding protesters.

After many voiced their disapproval of the ad across multiple platforms, including YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, Pepsi pulled the commercial and issued an apology.

As a large corporation in the U.S., Pepsi quite frankly should have known better than to push this ad.  It is not only insensitive to the current protests occurring in the nation but it belittles the causes for which these protests are built on.

While the commercial did not point to any specific social movement it seemed to feature an opposition to police as the clearly defined line of protesters and officers created a standoff situation.  The scene depicted was not unlike the Black Lives Matter protests across the country, although that could be attributed to a police brutality protest in general. 

That did not stop groups of people from criticizing the commercial, as capitalizing off of the Black Lives Matter movement, a movement that Pepsi has not voiced their support of.  Social media users pointed to the mimicry of the infamous Leshia Evans Baton Rouge photo by Kendall Jenner towards the end of the ad.

Whether or not Pepsi intended the ad to look like that specific movement does not matter.  The piece itself was one that should not have received any airtime.  At a time when the country is experiencing turmoil and discord across the board Pepsi claims to have been trying to project a message of unity, peace and understanding. But the way in which they chose to do so was not tasteful. 

All the problems that Americans face every day cannot simply be solved by a member of the Kardashian klan with a can of soda.  Individuals have been persecuted and have died for the things they protest. 

If Pepsi really cared about what was going on in the country they would take a page out of their own book and actually “join the conversation” rather than undermine it.  They are sending out the message that these issues have a simple fix and are not tense situations.  They are exploiting a social movement and using it as a marketing ploy.  These protests are not celebratory occasions in which people dance around and have a good time.  When people take to the streets it is for a serious cause that requires a serious change.