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On Monday, Pepsi released a new commercial starring Kendall Jenner, in which the model breaks away from her photoshoot to join a crowd of protesters and induct an era of world peace by handing a police officer a soda. As you can guess, it didn’t take long for the campaign to receive considerable backlash.
Twitter quickly grew aflame, criticizing the company’s use of social movements and people of color for financial gain. In the spot, Pepsi has co-opted both the Black Lives Matter movement and the resistance brought on by President Donald Trump‘s 2016 election win to show how one white woman, Jenner, can solve it all.
i get it now. if black lives matter protesters would've handed a pepsi to the cops they wouldnt of gotten tear gassed. it's so clear now.— quinta b. (@quintabrunson) April 4, 2017
Buying Pepsi and giving it to police won't stop racism. However, Boycotting Pepsi will stop their stupidity.— Kayla Reed (@iKaylaReed) April 5, 2017
The Pepsi ad is the logical conclusion of all the "cops hugging protesters" photos that get so much play after every instance of brutality— Molly Knefel (@mollyknefel) April 5, 2017
Idea: Give Trump a Pepsi. (Spit in it first)— OhNoSheTwitnt (@OhNoSheTwitnt) April 5, 2017
We out here LITERALLY risking our lives so that Niggas can breathe. But I mean, sure @pepsi. Get that ad campaign poppin. Do you.— Aurielle Marie (@ElleOfTwoCities) April 5, 2017
Lol @pepsi made a protest look like a peaceful block party. Wtf.— Martellus Bennett (@MartysaurusRex) April 5, 2017
For anyone considering a Pepsi boycott, Here's a list of the Pepsi Co brands. pic.twitter.com/opko8Y8i5u— Billie Jean Petty (@KrysMcFly) April 4, 2017
In the most incriminating shot, critics noticed that Jenner appears to even mimic Ieshia Evans, who was iconically photographed standing still in front of rushing police officers who ultimately arrested her during a Black Lives Matter protest after the police shooting death of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge last year.
"Kendall please! Give him a Pepsi!" pic.twitter.com/IntFNmCpTr— Zito (@_Zeets) April 4, 2017
"Now just wait one second officers.— Philip Lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) April 5, 2017
I have a Pepsi." pic.twitter.com/NW0sddKOOI
If I had carried Pepsi I guess I never would've gotten arrested. Who knew?— deray mckesson (@deray) April 5, 2017
The ignorant nature of the commercial runs the full two and a half minutes, from the Asian cellist who gets Jenner to rip off her wig and hand it to her black hairstylist, to the use of Skip Marley’s song “Lions,” to the black male dancers who literally back her up in the last shot. It’s almost as if Pepsi tried to make this commercial as “diverse” as possible in order to justify Jenner’s leading role in this alternative universe where stopping police brutality is as simple as sharing a can of carbonated sugar water.
According to the credits, the ad, created by PepsiCo’s in-house ad agency Creators League, appears to have been led by three men and three women, but a Google search for professional information doesn’t return enough information to know the racial composition of this group (though two of the women are most definitely white). Which begs the question of how many people signed off on this concept without questioning using a social movement against police brutality as a means to sell soda?
However, this ad campaign is the type we might expect to see when we normalize the phrase “protesting is the new brunch”—the ad even juxtaposes a pair of people sipping Pepsi at brunch against the protesters. Around the 30-second mark, Jenner looks like she catches a major bout of FOMO, but at about 1:30, when she sees the crowd approaching, things change—she is suddenly itching to make the movement about her. But not to worry, she finally gets her moment to shine when she wipes away her black lipstick with the back of her hands to cheer along with apolitical protesters.
AdWeek has compiled several responses from PepsiCo regarding the backlash, and the company doesn’t seem to be backing down from the spot anytime soon:
“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.
“The ‘Jump In’ Pepsi Moments film takes a more progressive approach to truly reflect today’s generation and what living for now looks like,” the brand said in the earlier release, which did not mention President Trump, the resistance, Black Lives Matter or any other current movement that Pepsi could be trying to reflect in its ad, which it plans to use globally, via TV and digital.”
PepsiCo did not immediately return the Daily Dot’s request for comment.
Update 12:22pm CT, April 5: Pepsi has pulled the ad and apologized to Jenner. You can read the company’s statement below:
Pepsi's statement. pic.twitter.com/ge8uMcamGa— Jennifer Maloney (@maloneyfiles) April 5, 2017
H/T Huffington Post
Samantha Grasso is a former IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.