Pepsi Ad Controversy


Kayla Sweet, Staff Writer

The recent Pepsi Campaign with Kendall Jenner has both Pepsi and Jenner in hot water for their message: Pepsi can create equality, and demolish racism. “We are the Movement” focuses on a large protest from a variety of backgrounds, mainly millennials, marching down the streets of New York City. They are passing a photoshoot featuring Jenner. She examines the march closer with curiosity when motioned to join the movement. Soon after, Jenner joined the crowd. They move down the street where time is depicted through dancing, and joining different styles of music. The song “Lions” by Skip Marley gives a sense of empowerment and a positive outlook on the future. To strengthen the idea of a positive and equal nation, Jenner walks in front of the crowd of protestors to hand a police officer a can of Pepsi. Cheering erupts from the crowd for her “heroic” action, creating unity between the protestors and all the officers.

Now that all sounds good in theory; the joining of millennials into a happy protest to form one voice ,where everyone is equal. There is no violence present and the protestors get along with the police officers from a distance. There is no interaction between the officers and the protesters. The only interaction was between Kendall and one officer.

My immediate reaction was that this was a strong and empowering campaign by the way the ad was building up momentum. However, I am also a young Caucasian woman from a small town in Iowa. I do not have a problem with officers on a personal level, but I do have an issue with the Pepsi Corporation minimalizing or setting the stage with a calm tone to the Black Lives Matter movement.

First of all, protesting is not cheerful, nor is it easy. People get hurt and it is not just an afternoon event. Martin Luther King’s daughter, Bernice King, took her thoughts to twitter saying, “If only daddy would have known the power of #Pepsi.” She took a dig at the ad with intelligence, and made a strong point with one sentence. The image, along with her comment, was her dad being pushed back by three white male officers. In reality, police do not just stand there as a blockade. They use tactics to disperse the protester.  In the commercial, the officers are standing in a row with their hands folded. My question is, what are the officers blocking in the commercial? I see them there to incorporate the idea that this is a protest. With a peaceful movement, why is there a need for officers? If there is any answer to that question, mine would be because if there is something to possibly happen, they would be there on hand. If that is the case, then they would not need to form a line to block the people from walking. I see the officers as an obstacle, and all Kendall needed to do to pass that obstacle was to share a Pepsi. Without Pepsi, what would have happened next? Would the peaceful protest have changed tone? Once Kendall Jenner hands the officer the Pepsi, the crowd is then able to move forward and keep walking side by side. That moment was a positive note for me because it is different races walking side by side because they are equal.

Overall, I see the positive direction that Pepsi wants to take. They portray that they agree with equality for everyone. However, I think that they missed the mark and should have gone in a different direction. The reality is that people are not treated equally. Officers do not just stand by while people go against societal norms, their job is to maintain order. Saying that Pepsi can change those problems is infuriating to say the least. Even though the Pepsi industry has received a lot of backlash, this campaign is popular.