Earlier this week, Pepsi launched a controversial global ad campaign starring Kendall Jenner which suggested Pepsi had the power to unite police and protestors. A barrage of Twitter ridicule followed, and on Wednesday, Pepsi pulled the advert and issued an apology.
The advert depicts crowds of young people smiling and laughing while holding non-specific “protest” placards. We see Kendall at work at a modelling shoot, which she then leaves to join the crowds. Apparently sensing a division between the protestors and the police, Kendall approaches a young police officer and offers him a can of Pepsi, which he smilingly drinks – much to the pleasure of the watching crowd.
Twitter backlash centred around the idea that the advert borrowed protest imagery to sell a soft drink while diminishing the dangers faced by protestors. Many compared the depiction of Kendall with Taking A Stand In Baton Rouge, the 2016 photograph of 18-year-old black woman Ieshia Evans standing up to armoured riot officers during a Black Lives Matter protest after Alton Sterling was shot by police. Martin Luther King’s daughter Bernice tweeted “If only Daddy would have known about the power of Pepsi”.
“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding," Pepsi said in a statement yesterday. "Clearly, we missed the mark and apologise. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout.” Pepsi also apologised to Kendall Jenner.
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