Early last month Pepsi released this advertisement:
It features Kendall Jenner solving tensions between modern protestors and police with a can of Pepsi. We’ve all seen it by now. If you’ve been on the internet within the past month you’ve at least heard of it. Saturday Night Live satirized it, social media users eviscerated it, and it was all over the mainstream news. The ad is unequivocally in poor taste, and Pepsi pulled it and apologized less than a day after it was released. Yet in the aftermath, what are we left with?
We all remembered Pepsi exists.
Is all press good press? Probably not. But press is press, and I don’t see anyone talking about Coca-Cola right now.
Remember the lead up to the election? How Donald Trump was on the news all the time because of the ridiculous and unevidenced claims he made on the daily? Remember all of that free air time? Where is he now?
This Pepsi ad is the kind of thing people aligned against BLM and other protests by marginalized peoples love. Why can’t we all just get along and drink a Pepsi? Don’t you see how easy it is to peacefully solve your differences?
Sure, there was a liberal firestorm, but this ad isn’t for people doing the protesting. It’s for people who protest the protesting by posting quotes by Gandhi or Martin Luther King on the internet, it’s for people who just want to get along, it’s for people who believe #AllLivesMatter.
I find it difficult to believe that executives at Pepsi didn’t know what they were doing, that this was an honest and well-intended mistake. Perhaps they didn’t predict the degree to which the backlash would intensify, but a nearly three minute high-budget ad starring a member of the Kardashian clan is no mistake. This is a corporation appropriating a movement for its own gain.
Perhaps it failed, perhaps it succeeded, but to brush it off as unintentional would be a mistake.