Pepsi pulls down advert after backlash

Friday April 7 2017


Pepsi drinks on a shelve in a supermarket in Kenya. The company has been criticised over an advert that was deemed insensitive. PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

More by this Author

They say there is no such thing as bad publicity. This was not what Pepsi anticipated when they released their latest advertisement, which has left a not-so-sweet taste in the mouths of many forcing the company to apologise and pull down the advert.

The advert at the center of the storm featured a young model – Kendall Jenner – who abandons a photoshoot, stuffs her wig in the hands of a clueless black female assistant and joins a street protest.

In what now looks like an attempt of art imitating life gone horribly wrong, the Pepsi advertisement was accused of being racist and trivializing the “Black Lives Matter” protests that have been going on in the US to protest against the killings of blacks by police.

In the advert christened “jump in” the model is seen standing up to police and offering them a can of Pepsi, which magically softens the mean-looking policemen who thankfully accept the can.

The advert is re-enacting the iconic image that captured 28-year-old Ieshia Evans, the young black woman standing up to a line of heavily armed policemen during a Black Lives Matter protest last year.

However, Pepsi opened a can of worms after the advert blew up on their faces, forcing them to release a statement admitting failure.

“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark and we apologise…we are pulling the content and halting any further roll out,” said the statement.

As expected, the Internet did not spare Pepsi the backlash and mockery.

The advert was fiercely criticized for downplaying the massive sacrifices made by the Black Lives Matter protest and suggested it was tone-deaf and insensitive to the many lives lost in the civil rights movements.

The Pepsi ad tried to insinuate that you could solve anything - even the racist killings of black people - with a can of Pepsi.

People over the Internet mocked this allusion, even noting that perhaps what Martin Luther needed back in the days of civil movement was not the bravery and defiance he portrayed, but a can of Pepsi.

Others alluded to the fact that it was ‘a good day’ at Coca Cola, Pepsi’s archrival, suggesting that the soft drink company was celebrating Pepsi’s huge mess.


The Internet jokes aside, critics such as Elle Hearns, a former organiser for Black Lives Matter, told New York Times that the advert plays down the sacrifices that people have historically taken in utilizing protests.

Bernice King, the daughter of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Junior, jumped in and tweeted: “If only Daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi” alongside a picture of her father in an altercation with white police men.

Not everyone agrees that Pepsi made a huge blunder. Ian Bogost, a contributing editor at The Atlantic and a professor of interactive computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology says that the advert was a massive success.