Social media went into overdrive after the fairy tale commercial premiered on YouTube.
Pepsi tried to evoke a sense of harmony and goodwill by creating an ad that showcased the call for unity in a world divided. Unfortunately, they only reminded folks that cultural appropriation and privilege try effectively sell products on a subliminal level.
Social media and critics didn’t miss the ill-thought message and immediately took notice causing Pepsi to release the following statement.
“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark and apologize,” the company said Wednesday in a statement. “We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout.”
The ad features uneventful scenes from the Black Lives Matter movement, according to the New York Times, showing only G-rated protest signs which are painted with words like “Peace” and “Join the Conversation.”
But what really got people upset was its star Kendall Jenner during a photo shoot becoming inspired by the passing protest and taking off her wig and lipstick, grabbing a can of Pepsi and running off into the crowd.
That seemed okay, but in the final shot when Jenner gives the ice-cold soft drink to a riot officer and the whole crowd smiles and cheers, that’s what caused people to wonder what type of message the ad was trying to convey.
It’s not the fact that Jenner gives the officer a Pepsi, it’s that the whole thing seemed so Disney-esque with a “and they lived happily-ever-after” plot twist.
The truth is protests aren’t rated E for everyone. In fact historically they can be deadly an no amount of corn syrup sweetened fizzy drink can diminish that fact.
Elle Hearns, the Martha P. Johnson Institute executive director and former organizer for Black Lives Matter, told the New York Times, the ad, “plays down the sacrifices people have historically taken in utilizing protests.”
“No one is finding joy from Pepsi at a protest,” she said. “That’s just not the reality of our lives. That’s not what it looks like to take bold action.”
Bernice King, daughter of civil rights activist Martin Luther King, took to Twitter saying her father’s work could have been made easier carrying a soft drink. .
“If only Daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi.”
But some YouTube posters are saying that the ad was a representation of a peaceful protest not a violent one.
“Pepsi's intent on this was to show that we are all one and to bring people together. Which is why we have every race of people in this ad like the muslim girl, people of color, asians, women, men, etc, etc. It doesnt matter the main focus is that we are all human and its time to not fight but be civivlized which is why everyone was cheering when Kendall gave him the pepsi. And of course people like to be offended and take things the wrong way bc of how small minded and negative they are. The irony is in this ad is too real. LOL” Mia - YouTube
Others responded saying they believed the spot reflected recent protests and the feel-good nature of the ad diminishes the rioting, police brutality and violence that often accompanies them.
“This is so fu**ing weird and unacceptable. Don't normalize pain and suffering. And especially don't use it for marketing and profit. It's stupid. There is nothing symbolic about an officer accepting a Pepsi. It's stupid and pointless.” – Stephen Baily YouTube.
Social media also compared Kedall's interaction with the officer in the promo to the viral photo of protestor Ieshia Evans who stood up to police.
“It has no relationship to the courage that that woman showed,” Ms. Hearns said, referring to Ms. Evans. “That woman standing in the middle of the street was not trying to be a peacemaker with the police. She was being defiant. She was actually resisting.”