Pepsi misses the mark on activism

 Columnist Olivia Hunt

Columnist Olivia Hunt

In a cringe-worthy attempt to appeal to consumer culture, Pepsi’s new advertisement shamelessly commercializes protests and appropriates social justice movements.

The highly controversial ad was pulled within just 24 hours of its release after the popular beverage company was bombarded with criticism for monopolizing on the social struggles that align with protests.

At almost three minutes in length, the ad contains multifaceted layers that the viewer can’t help but analyze. The tone-deaf video features Kendall Jenner who is shown in the middle of a photo shoot and so happens to spontaneously join a nearby protest after an attractive Asian man flashes her a “come hither” look.

Jenner immediately loses interest in her shoot and throws her bleach blonde wig at her African American hair stylist, who ironically falls under the category of oppressed people that the protest she is about to join is probably focused on.                 

The camera cuts to a young female photographer wearing a hijab who serves as the token minority in the ad along with the non-white man playing a cello on a helipad in the first scene. The camera pans to the crowd of protesters who look like they just walked out of a K-Mart commercial and had a competition on who could make the most basic protest sign.

To make matters any worse, the background music sounds as if the singer of Mumford and Sons and Calvin Harris made a collaboration album. The pseudo hipster millennials appear stoked that the naive Jenner has joined their important movement, or what appears to be their Mecca to Coachella.

The protesters fade to the background and the camera focuses on two women having brunch and drinking Pepsi. Back at the protest, the sun is reflecting off of a boho chic’s brand new Urban Outfitters aviator sunglasses as well as her newly Crest white stripped teeth.

A Pepsi magically appears in Jenner’s hand as she celebrates and parties along with the protestors. The protest is slowing due to a barricade of white police officers who are not wearing shields or any type of typical protection worn by actual police officers shutting down a protest.

Jenner, the white feminist savior, approaches the officers, hands them a Pepsi and single handedly solves racism. Everyone can go home now. Once again, capitalism and whiteness prevail.

Not everything in the ad is misguided if you consider the company’s efforts to show diversity by including an Asian man, a woman in a hijab and a black woman performing non-stereotypical tasks, but that is the extent of positive and authentic images of protests.     

The image of Jenner handing a Pepsi to the officers shows the paradox between the iconic image of Iesha Evans who stood her ground in the face of riot police last year.

The commercial was mocked by Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., who posted a photo of her father being pushed away by riot police with the caption, “If only Daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi.”

King is just one of many critics of Pepsi’s erasure of the Black Lives Matter Movement’s efforts.
In a statement regarding the controversy Pepsi tried to level with skeptics, “This is a global ad that reflects people from different walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony.”

The company has since apologized and admits to “missing the mark” in addition to placing the oblivious Jenner in this position.

Pepsi exploited the aesthetics of sociopolitical crisis in order to appeal to millennials and pull rank within the soda industry.

The fact that no one involved in the making of this ad questioned how placing a privileged white model in this scenario could be problematic is an indicator that advertising will genuinely play any card in the deck to make profit.