July 18, 2019 | 85° F

EDITORIAL: Pepsi’s commercial is hard to swallow

Ad campaign for soda has inappropriate depiction of protests


A cold, refreshing Pepsi is perfect for almost any occasion ­— barbecues, parties and mid-work lunch. But do you know where a Pepsi does not exactly fit in? A protest — especially one lead by model Kendall Jenner.

The soft-drink company released an ad on Tuesday that was pulled by Wednesday, and in the flurry of events that took place in between, a lot of people who probably missed the now-removed ad are not entirely sure of what happened. So here is a refresher:

Pepsi put out a commercial that begins with what appears to be a Muslim woman in a hijab upsettingly looking over photographs. The scene pans out and it shows that a demonstration is taking place on the outside streets, with people of different races holding up signs of “love,” “peace” and “unity,” while they are all high-fiving and laughing as they walk. Jenner, the token celebrity sponsor for the commercial, appears to be anxious as she looks on at the young, happy crowd marching on without her. And so, as the “super” model she is, she tosses away her blonde wig, smears off her lipstick and joins the crowd. The commercial ends with Jenner walking at the front of the protest and coming face-to-face with a wall of police. And then something odd happens. Jenner looks to the crowd, steps up and then proceeds to hand a police officer a Pepsi can. He takes it, drinks it, the happy crowd begins cheering and the commercial fades away with a shot of Jenner and the protesters with the words “Live Bolder” written across the bottom of the screen.

Removing this commercial was the smartest aspect of it.

Now many might look at this commercial and feel confused at the backlash. The commercial seems to promote the idea of unity, shines light on important social issues and demonstrates that it is important for everyone to fight for what they believe in, right? Wrong.

Pepsi’s commercial is nothing short of inappropriate and misguided. Protests are not happy, go-lucky walks down the street with cold drinks being passed around in ice buckets. Protests are groups of people who have been oppressed and pushed down by the system standing together in solidarity to show that they will not stand for the injustices that they are facing. Police officers are often clad in armor and equipped with weapons. Protests are not a fun gathering to party at — they are a means of uniting to fight off a force greater than the individuals within them.

The worst part of this commercial is that Jenner’s “bold” move to step up and face the police officer seems to be modeled after the photograph taken in 2016 of Lesha Evans. Evans was protesting the murder of Alton Sterling, who was shot and killed at close range by police officers in Baton Rouge. The powerful picture of her standing tall in front of officers who are dressed in SWAT gear was taken moments before she was arrested.

Pepsi wants to take this extremely sensitive, powerful moment and reduce it to a woman, who is not even of color, smilingly walking up to an officer and handing him a soda. How this commercial passed a writing, directing and production team is beyond belief.

This may be annoying for some, but you always have to consider what is going around in the outside world around you. Protests are happening in all corners of the world and innocent black people are still being shot by police officers, many of which end up walking without convictions.

So, Pepsi, please stick to barbecues, parties and lunch.

The Daily Targum

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