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Pepsi ad misses mark with message about activism

by Kayla Green - Staff Writer
Mon, Apr 17th 2017 09:30 pm
Photo taken from Billboard Dance on Twitter

In a recent advertisement featuring Kendall Jenner (above) Pepsi attempted to create a visage of being able to unite protesters and police with a Pepsi but instead the advertisement backfired and the company received heaps of backlash on social media.
Photo taken from Billboard Dance on Twitter In a recent advertisement featuring Kendall Jenner (above) Pepsi attempted to create a visage of being able to unite protesters and police with a Pepsi but instead the advertisement backfired and the company received heaps of backlash on social media.

"Join the conversation ..." 

Reading this quote, one may expect it to be found on a social media website or perhaps on a flyer for a panel discussion or maybe even on a billboard. But where was this quote actually found? On a poster, being held up by staged protestors in a Pepsi commercial. 

Last week, Pepsi released a confusing and arguably offensive advertisement starring Kendall Jenner. For those who have not seen it, the main storyline behind the ad is a protest in the streets, vaguely resembling a Black Lives Matter protest. At first glance, it seems like a good idea to shed light on this very current and important issue in our country, but then the ad becomes a typical example of cultural appropriation at its finest. 

The "protest" in the streets features posters preaching "Join the conversation," as I previously mentioned, as well as posters with peace signs. Although the demonstration starts off looking like a normal march, it quickly turns into a somewhat mardi gras-esque celebration complete with musicians and dancing. A line of police officers are present, standing around unarmed and appearing as though they're having a good time. 

Jenner is shown throughout the ad, looking distraught from the sidelines of the protest until she finally leaves her photoshoot to go join. When Jenner meets up with the protestors, it is as if all issues are solved. Everyone looks happy, they dance more and, best of all, they start handing each other Pepsi cans. Jenner hands a Pepsi to a happy-looking police officer, who accepts it gratefully and the crowd goes wild.

Like I said, at first glance, this ad is just like any other average commercial on television, but when you dig deeper into it, it is exactly what is wrong with America.

Jimmy Kimmel, as quoted in The Atlantic, said it best: "The fact that this somehow made it through—I can't imagine how many meetings, and edits, and pitches, and then got the thumbs-up from who-knows-how-many people is absolutely mind-boggling."

Pepsi essentially took the hot topic of protests and political activism and attempted to make a profit off it. They presented real and serious issues and sent the message that Kendall Jenner and Pepsi can solve all these problems in the blink of an eye. These issues, such as race, police brutality and the current political climate of our country should not be taken lightly and summed up as having a can of soda as the solution.

Personally, I do not see anything done right in this ad. It glamorized protests, which are realistically serious and Pepsi portrayed them as parades where the issues at hand are solved quickly and easily. It does not come across to me as even somewhat genuine, although it tries hard with the guy playing the cello on the roof and the woman sorting photographs in a studio.

While all the bad aspects of the ad are clear to see, it still leaves people wondering, "why?"

There are usually marketing motives behind these ads and perhaps this one just was not hashed out enough before it was given the green light. There is, however, a reason why it may have been approved so quickly. 

"For example, there could be internal data suggesting that Millennials are a prime target for an ad, and that one of the things that resonates most with Millennials is activism," Joe Pinsker of The Atlantic said.

Using Kendall Jenner was simply another easy way to appeal to Millennials by using one of their favorite celebrities to get them to buy a product.

Pepsi made a total rookie mistake of trying to place every minority group, hot-button issue and popular Kardashian into one ad to try to appeal to everyone, but their efforts came across as offensive to everyone they were trying to reach.

"There's a lesson to be learned here—if you keep using minority groups as seasoning in your videos and you don't actually put them in your boardrooms, this will be the million dollar product you have to pull from the market," The Young Turks' Hasan Piker said. 

So, join the conversation ... the real conversation, instead of this fabricated, Pepsi-drinking, Kendall Jenner fantasy world conversation that would, realistically, accomplish nothing. Problems are not solved by handing someone a Pepsi, and serious issues are not solved overnight.


kgree3@brockport.edu