Poor Pepsi: Why Pepsi’s Recent Ad Campaign is Receiving Such Backlash and How to Revise it
Mood Music: I’d Like to Teach The World to Sing
By–The New Seeker
If you are basically a sentient individual, you know that soft drink brand PepsiCo just released an ad campaign that is receiving an outstanding amount of backlash.
The commercial itself is very simple:
There seems to be a lot of young people dancing, partying, mobbing or having a concert in the streets when the spotlight is placed on the young model of the Kardashian/Jenner reality show clan- Kendell Jenner.
Fresh faced and wig free after walking off from a photo shoot near the commotion, Jenner breaks free of the crowd and hands over a cold Pepsi to a team of police officers who seem ready to attack or protect.
The crowd looks anxious, but an officer accepts the drink. The police officers appear to surrender and the crowd of semi diverse and excited young people scream for joy!
A Muslim girl takes a picture and a black guy “Hits the Folks”. All is well in the world! The sheer power of Pepsi has saved the day!
So why are civil rights leaders and black twitter complaining. Below I annotate where Pepsi’s advert went wrong and how the brand could have made a more powerful statement that might have been better received.
Where Pepsi Went Wrong
The crowd having the standoff with the police
Firstly, it’s not really clear what’s going on. Are these young people protesting? Are they marching for civil rights? Is this just like a party or a flash mob?
Without clear insight of what’s going on, how can an audience empathize or understand?
Basically, the commercial starts off without clear direction- just a lot of youngsters excitedly jumping around taking group photos for their social media accounts and listening to a band.
Why is Kendall Jenner the central focus of this commercial? She’s a young white woman born with a silver spoon in her mouth. The most controversial thing she has faced in her young life of is having a transgender father and a sister who took part in a sex tape.
Having a young white woman be the voice of social change is immediately upsetting, because it feeds back into the concept of “White Female Savior”.
Movies like Blindside and Freedom Writers depict the often-used theme of a beautiful white woman who has to be the strength that saves a minority.
To many minorities, this concept insinuates that they can’t save their selves, because they lack the intelligence or the grace for the job.
Superstar Recording artist , Beyoncé, has been a part of the Pepsi brand since the early 2000’s. I don’t care for the concept of this new ad at all, but it would have been a little more effective promotion to see a powerful black woman like Beyoncè confidently break the tension.
Imagine if Queen Bey was the one who passsed the Pepsi to the officers while a chorus of her socially conscious song Freedom raging like an angry flag whipping in the wind.
Instead Pepsi used a young privallaged white girl who looks unsure of her own actions in the advertisement.
The Diversity of the Crowd
Sure there’s several dancing black guys, a biracial guy, a Muslim girl, a few Hispanics, an Asian guy and I’m thinking a transgendered black girl, but these characters seem like the minority when they represent the groups most oppressed.
This commercial was basically a rip off of the Black Lives Matter Movement and the most oppressed group, young black men, seem underrepresented.
What exactly are the few Black men represented in this advertisement doing? They are playing stereotypical dancing Jigaboos as their White Savior, Kendall Jenner, does the dirty work.
Why Pepsi didn’t really Execute the Best Commercial Concept
Pepsi’s execution of this sensitive ad campaign was less than stellar, because they couldn’t really “go there”.
It’s a soft drink commercial so Pepsi wanted to appeal to their target audience of people age 12-25. Being too heavy might scare their audience and conservative white investors away, so they took a lighthearted and fun approach.
What Pepsi failed to realize is dead black boys bleeding on black pavement isn’t funny. Hispanic children being deported isn’t lighthearted. The oppression of Muslims based on the radical ideas of a few individuals isn’t a party in the streets.
This commercial is unsettling, because it reaches to make light of something that isn’t light for so many grieving and oppressed families.
I think Pepsi could have done better. Below is a treatment I think would and could have been a little more appealing and maybe even celebrated approach.
My Dream Revision for Pepsi
A truly diverse group of young people with significantly more Muslims, blacks and Hispanics are having a peaceful protest, holding signs that reflect the song blaring in the background. Signs that read “We are The Future, We Are The Generation.”
The police try to break up the crowd with force, but like the old “Teach the World to Sing” Coke ad campaign (that Pepsi poorly tried to mimic decades later, by the way) each member of the crowd exchange determined smiles as the music and sound pauses and everyone holds hands in true group solidity.
This action will show that governmental forces can never divide an America that is truly untied.
The cops relent and start to walk away defeated when a singular black young man in a grey hoodie breaks through. The crowd parts dramatically as the guy makes his way over to the officers.
The camera pans back to a clearly worried black female who is obviously the guy’s sister or girlfriend. She is comforted and embraced by a white and Muslim female on either side.
The guy removes his hood reaches into his pocket pulls out a Pepsi (as the crowd gasps and an officer draws a weapon).
The officer examines the drink in the boy’s outstretched trembling hand and with tearful eyes, puts down his weapon and embraces the boy warmly. The crowd breaks into cheers and the music returns.
At the end of the commercial, the audience sees the entire coward especially young Muslims and Hispanics enjoying a celebratory Pepsi!
I feel this approach would have made an effective nod to the Black Lives Matter Movement, showed real support to the Muslim and Hispanic communities, enforced the idea that not all cops are bad, all while celebrating American youth and doing a subtle tribute to Trayvon Martin and so many other victims like him.
Apparently, Pepsi had other plans, but one can dream, right?
Dream of an America where all men are equal and soft drinks don’t have to get involved in any type of social or political movement or try to be “woke” just fizzy.