Pepsi Debuts New Ad and Everyone’s Like ‘Nah’

UPDATE: Pepsi has since removed the ad and issued an official statement, “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 pulling the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 24 hours, you’ve probably heard about the backlash Pepsi has received over its latest ad with model and reality star, Kendall Jenner. If you have indeed been living under a rock below is the “global” ad that lit Twitter and outlets afire yesterday.

First off, I work in advertising, so I’m taken back at the fact that something like this was produced by such a large corporation, let alone that it even made it out of the concept phase. What I’m happy to see is that people of all walks of life are like “Nah, Pepsi!” for its appropriation of social injustice. However, this isn’t new behavior, fashion brand Tory Burch recently received backlash on ad for cultural appropriation.

According the Pepsi’s YouTube description, the ad is “A short film about the moments when we decide to let go, choose to act, follow our passion and nothing holds us back. Capturing the spirit and actions of those people that jump in to every moment and featuring multiple lives, stories and emotional connections that show passion, joy, unbound and uninhibited moments. No matter the occasion, big or small, these are the moments that make us feel alive.” Great description. Poor execution.

The only possible way that Pepsi can recover from this is if they donate a $1 (or more) for every view they get of the ad to help out Black Lives Matter, immigration, Muslim, Native American, LBGTQ and Women Rights movements that continue to fight for equal opportunities and rights. However they choose to respond, they need to do more than just delete the ads (if they even choose that route) and issue an apology.

I hope Pepsi and other brands–both small and large–learn the importance of having their staff be reflective of their target audience. Have diversity in the board rooms and let not just our faces be seen, but let our voices be heard as well. Hire multicultural agencies if in-house creative teams are unable to produce inclusive content. Utilize these agencies to do more than just vet Black and brown talent for ads–give them the power to freely oppose without fear of jeopardizing their job.

I think a lot of companies fail to realize that their employees are consumers as well–some of which even being the very target consumer for the product/service they are providing. Imagine if companies utilized their employees as focus groups–which could be done anonymously–to give their opinion at the concept phase. They could save billions, along with avoiding the backlash like Pepsi has received.

At the end of the day, if you or someone you know has ever marched for their rights–rather Black, brown, LBGT, woman, etc.–then you should be outraged at the fact that a brand marginalized the very struggles we (ie. their target audience) face by offering a can of Pepsi to end social injustice.

Shame on Pepsi and shame on Kendall Jenner.

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