If you haven’t done so already, go watch the new Pepsi commercial
with Kendall Jenner. Then
read this article. If you can, go into it with as unbiased a view as possible. Though, after the public relations travesty that the commercial went through, you may struggle to initially view it through an objective lens. Just watch, then read.
For starters I didn’t like the commercial, because I thought it was corny. Like woop-dee-freakin’-doo Pepsi, you have diversity– congrats. I was unimpressed, and I didn’t like the music. I didn’t begin to really dislike it until I saw Kendall Jenner take a Pepsi and hand it to a police officer. I can genuinely say that it was probably the dumbest scene I’d ever borne witness to. Anyone who’s anyone knows that cops prefer Coke. It took me a second, but then I realized that is looked suspiciously similar to another image I’d seen.
At once I understood why everyone was up in arms.
A lot of the backlash has to do with the medium, not the message. By that I mean, if it had been Beyoncé or Zendaya or Rihanna leading a protest and handing cops soda then we’d be having a completely different conversation about this commercial. But Pepsi messed up. They chose the wrong girl to lead the revolution.
The message, regardless of the medium, is the same: Buy this soda, it’s cool. We, as a society, continuously make the mistake of refusing to take companies at face value. They are not trying to promote social change, they are trying to make money. That’s what for-profit corporations do, they capitalize off of how easily swayed the public is.
Recognizing that as Pepsi’s motive makes it a lot easier to understand how in the world they thought it made sense to try to make protest trendy. They packaged a necessary force for social change as a fashion accessory. Marketing teams do this with things all the time- typically things that come from the black community- but usually they’re a bit more inconspicuous with their appropriation. And despite the audacious way Pepsi went about it, I still believe they would’ve been fine if they’d used a black girl as opposed to a Kardashian-Jenner.
I mean, come on, even I could’ve told Pepsi not to do that. Since when have the Kardashian-Jenners been champions for social change? Even more so, was the commercial supposed to have even an inkling of realism? A rich white woman leading a protest? WHERE.
Aside from the marketing mishap that most definitely lies with whoever OK-ed the casting, utilizing protest as a means of selling soda is an oxymoron in and of itself. I mean, the quintessential form of anti-establishmentarianism is protest. Pepsi took that and utilized it as a tool to perpetuate American capitalism, which is an infrastructure which actively thrives and operates off of the disenfranchisement of already oppressed groups.
On top of that, they made protest pretty. Where was the tear gas? Why weren’t the police militarized? Where was the anger, the frustration, the emotions which come with being oppressed and lead to protest being necessary? That wasn’t a protest, it was frickin’ parade.
Now, I don’t agree with utilizing protest as a marketing ploy for soda, but I think there’s a way for it to be done and to be extremely profitable. Pepsi just did it wrong. They failed to think it through, and as a result they’re getting their butts kicked in the media. It’s unfortunate, because damn Pepsi was almost cool again.