UPDATE: Since this article was first posted, Pepsi have decided (wisely in my opinion) to pull the ad from YouTube. A Pepsi spokesperson said in a press release: "Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize."
Social media can be a harsh mistress at the best of times, but this is certainly not the best of times. While it's easy to dismiss the obvious social media troll as a pitiful neckbeard, when the numbers swell and there are enough people (many of them legitimately famous) angrily telling you (in a variety of entertaining ways) that your ad is a borderline offensive, burning pile of garbage, you might just have made a mistake. Enter Pepsi and reality TV star/model/'professional personality without a personality' Kendall Jenner, and the already infamous “Live For Now” campaign.
“The spirit of Pepsi is one that I believe in. I make a conscious effort in my everyday life and travels to enjoy every experience of today” Kendall Jenner
The ad (below) for those who haven't already seen it, is based around a protest against something vague (Trump? Racism? Coca-Cola?). Jenner is glimpsed throughout, pouting her way through a glamorous modelling shoot and just being her basic, boilerplate beautiful self, before she casts off her fake blonde locks at the spots climax to 'join the cause' by cat-walking up to a police officer and handing him a Pepsi. It's obviously meant to be the millennial version of the iconic “Flower Power” shot by Bernie Boston and just typing that last sentence made me feel a little bit sick. It also evokes a widely circulated photo of Black Lives Matter protester Leshia Evans, who was detained last year when she approached police at a demonstration in Baton Rouge. Aside from the cynical historical parallels, the spot is patronising, smug, and about as artful as a fresh turd dipped in glue and rolled in glitter and the internet is not letting it stand.
Many are lambasting the ad as an appropriation of the Black Lives Matter movement, others are calling out the hypocrisy of using using a figure as notoriously vapid and independently wealthy as Jenner to make such a politically charged statement, and many more are simply calling it a tone deaf noise. Myself? I think it's just a solid misfire for everyone involved. Just try reading the official statement Jenner gave for the press release without shuddering: “To me, Pepsi is more than just a beverage — it registers as a pop culture icon and a lifestyle that shares a voice with the generation of today. The spirit of Pepsi (living in the ‘now’ moment) is one that I believe in. I make a conscious effort in my everyday life and travels to enjoy every experience of today.” Wow. You can almost hear the thousand-yard stare baking into the back of your neck with that one right?
“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” Pepsi
Created by Pepsi's own in-house content creation arm, ironically dubbed the “Creators League,” the spot has seen a barrage of witty and thoroughly deserved Twitter takedowns (Pepsi became the top trending topic on Twitter yesterday, with “Kendall” taking up the second spot), that are worlds more creative than the spot itself. Here I've collected a few of my favourites, but feel free to add your own in the comments below if I've missed any corkers. It's spots like this that are the reason advertising gets such a bad rep, so let's do something about it.
This Pepsi ad is so unrealistic. Those protesters would have been Dr. Pepper Sprayed. https://t.co/oNjjtm6eFu— Stephen Colbert (@StephenAtHome) April 5, 2017
PUTIN PAID FOR THAT PEPSI SPOT— Andy Richter (@AndyRichter) April 5, 2017
Inside the Pepsi ad pitch meeting:— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) April 4, 2017
"... and then Kendall Jenner solves oppression by handing an attractive policeman a Pepsi..." https://t.co/paXWbtSKPu
J. Edgar Hoover takes aim from the grassy knoll. The motorcade approaches. He fires. JFK raises a #Pepsi to his lips, blocks the bullet.— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) April 5, 2017
"But you said you wanted social media to talk about Pepsi." - Advertising guy to Pepsi executive before agency is fired.— Jim Gaffigan (@JimGaffigan) April 5, 2017
If this #Pepsi ad is the choice of a new generation, Im gonna need that generation to turn in its badge.— Margaret Cho (@margaretcho) April 5, 2017
The worst part of the Pepsi commercial is when Kendall decides to protest racism by making a black woman hold her wig. pic.twitter.com/NEfSwXqJvm— Sean Kent (@seankent) April 5, 2017
theory: that Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad is actually a Coke ad— Chris Gayomali (@chrisgayomali) April 4, 2017
Ivanka: there! Now absolutely NOBODY can produce something more tone-deaf than me today— Fred Smith (@fredwordsmith) April 4, 2017
Kendall: hold my Pepsi
they pepsi but do they peplisten— brian feldman (@bafeldman) April 4, 2017
Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and struggling musician from Kidderminster in the UK. He prefers Coke anyway.