Pepsi Sprays Controversy

The Pepsi company sparked almost instantaneous controversy a few weeks ago when it released an advertisement depicting Kendall Jenner, an American fashion model and internet icon peacefully handing a police officer a can of Pepsi during what appeared to be a generic protest. Twitter got a hold of the video soon after it aired where it proceeded to go viral and incite a lot of anger and discussion over subjects like Black Lives Matter, police violence and millennials. While this ad does not do anything outright offensive, reading between the lines, or even simply having an idea of the current events reveals a whole other side of the seemingly harmless commercial.

The ad begins with Kendall Jenner in a photo shoot noticing a protest going on outside of the window. Jenner removes her blonde wig and joins the enthusiastic group of young people holding signs with messages like “Join the conversation,” and “Peace.” Jenner then grabs a Pepsi and hands it to a police officer and they both smile and share a meaningful gaze.

There are two controversial sides to the issue, one being it depicting protests as a “cool” or “trendy” event to partake in when, in fact, people are actually protesting because they feel scared or angry and want to help the world and people around them. Passionate people gathered at airports across the United States when the Muslim ban was put into effect and the lawyers working tirelessly for free were there because it was a fun and hip thing to do on a Saturday night. This advertisement is said to emphasize the misconception that protests have no basis in reality and are more of a bandwagon activity then a real push for social justice.

The second side is that the behavior of police in this advertisement does not reflect the real demeanor that police officers have had at some protests, particularly ones concerning the Black Lives Matter movement. Many people believe that Pepsi was trying to portray a feeling of unity and togetherness but with the current climate, it comes off as rude and patronizing. It seems to say that with a smile and a cold drink, all your problems will go away, when in reality police brutality is a complex and harmful problem that many people helplessly face.

In a short, this advertisement was trying to appeal to young involved people and missed the mark by a long shot. Hopefully Pepsi and other corporations learned from their mistakes and will do better in the future.