Updated: April 6, 2017
An advertisement for Pepsi starring model Kendall Jenner hasn’t gone down smoothly—so much so that the beverage giant has pulled it, amidst a chorus of criticism.
The commercial, which Pepsi released on Tuesday and pulled late yesterday, sparked backlash online over visuals deemed insensitive and tone deaf, with charges it also appropriated African-American culture in the crassest way possible.
The spot showed Jenner posing in a blonde wig at a photo shoot while a protest marches on in the background. She then tears off the wig to join the protest, grabbing a can of Pepsi along the way. She moves to the front where there is a police blockade to hand an officer a Pepsi. The crowd cheers as he takes a drink.
Fewer people were cheering online: Twitter exploded in outrage at the newly released ad, which Pepsi described on its Global YouTube channel as “a short film about the moments when we decide to let go, choose to act, follow our passion and nothing holds us back.”
“How nice of Kendall Jenner to stop in the middle of her photo shoot to end social injustices by giving that cop a Pepsi,” one Twitter user wrote.
Others, including Huffington Post’s Black Voices Associate Editor Tayrn Finley, compared the visual similarities of the ad with the now-famous photograph of protestor Ieshia Evans last year in Indiana during country-wide Black Lives Matter protests.
Comedian Travon Free tweeted: “The Kendall Jenner Pepsi fiasco is a perfect example of what happens when there’s no black people in the room when decisions are being made.” By early Wednesday, he was retweeted nearly 4,000 times, with almost 10,000 people favoriting it.
Not everyone was sympathetic about the offended feelings of those detractors. Motivational speaker Adam Catterall tweeted:
Pepsi responded to the backlash in a statement to CNBC, stating: “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.”
In the aftermath, a few key details came to light that added fuel to the fire. As The Mirror noted, the ad’s creators were Creative Director Pete Kasko, Director Michael Bernard, Executive Producer Ben Freedman, Agency Creative Director Kristin Patrick, Agency Executive Producer Ally Polly, and Agency Producer Allison Sipes—all of whom are white.
The ad industry itself, per AdAge, was less than embracing of the spot. “I understand what they were trying to do: They had data that probably said 75 percent of millennials consider themselves activists, or whatever that data piece was, so we are going to embrace the idea of activism,” Benjamin Blank, CEO and chief creative officer at Uproxx Media Group, told AdAge. But the data was where the intrigue ended. Per the piece, the ad was off the mark because it was a “very broad-stroke approach as opposed to standing for something. It’s like standing for love or happiness, that’s not really a stance,” Blank told the industry trade.
Pepsi has since released a second statement—with an apology. In a statement, the soda company said “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize….We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are removing the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”
Pepsi has since removed the ad from YouTube, but it’s still live on the Kendall and Kylie YouTube page. Watch it below.
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