Pepsi are facing a torrent of criticism after releasing a new commercial featuring TV personality Kendall Jenner, which many argue dumbs down political issues and exploits protest movements.
The advertisement depicts the 21-year-old model abandoning work to join a protest that passes by. She then manages to unite protesters and police by handing an officer a can of soda which she picked up from a handy cooler full of Pepsi.
The commercial was greeted with howls of derision on social media. Both Jenner and Pepsi have also come in for significant criticism.
“What a disrespectful ad. People are being arrested and dying fighting for justice. You solve it with Pepsi. Heinous,” one commenter said.
Many compared Jenner’s interaction with the cop to the iconic photograph of Black Lives Matter protester Leshia Evans defiantly confronting a line of riot police before being arrested.
Imagine putting your life on the line like this to fight for justice only to have it parodied by a soda company and a Kardashian pic.twitter.com/g55s09owVf
— jamilah (@JamilahLemieux) April 4, 2017
A photo showing that something similar actually happened during a protest in Baltimore went viral with user @YeahItsWIlly noting that the tactic was not successful.
“We did this in Baltimore. Nothing changed,” he wrote. “Pepsi knew they wouldn’t be able to find a black celebrity for that ad.”
Pepsi knew they wouldn’t be able to find a black celebrity for that ad.
— $1 Pizza Papi (@YeahItsWilly) April 5, 2017
The advertisement generated hundreds of thousands of reactions across social media with people posting memes expressing their disapproval alongside photos of iconic civil right moments. One of them depicted Martin Luther King Jr. being arrested with the caption: “Damn, I left my Pepsi at home”.
“The spirit of Pepsi – living in the ‘now’ moment – is one that I believe in,” Jenner said in a statement before the ad was released. “I make a conscious effort in my everyday life and travels to enjoy every experience of today.” She has yet to comment on the controversy.
Pepsi issued a statement to Ad Week defending the commercial: “This is a global ad that reflects people from different walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony, and we think that’s an important message to convey.”
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