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Pepsi ad trivializes civil rights protests

Company co-opts activist movement to sell soda


/ The Spectrum The Spectrum

Pepsi’s newest advertisement could not be more off the mark.

The new ad features model Kendall Jenner clad in a blonde wig at a photo shoot as a protest hits the streets in the background. It is unclear what this protest is even about; demonstrators carry cheesy signs with messages like “spread love” and “join the conversation,” that don’t indicate what the group is fighting for.

Give me a break.

In the commercial’s cringe-worthy climax, Jenner ditches her blonde wig and rushes to join the so-called “protest.” The participants still seem to be preaching some vague, nonsensical message about peace, love and happiness. They’re smiling, clapping, dancing to music and jumping around.

Believe it or not, Pepsi, protests aren’t just some hippie Kumbaya love fest. They are outcries of people fighting for their lives and basic human rights.

In perhaps the most horrifying moment of this tone-deaf disaster of a commercial, Jenner grabs a can of Pepsi and offers it to one of the stone-faced police officers monitoring the protest.

The officer takes the Pepsi and smiles at Jenner. The crowd cheers.

Meanwhile, black people are murdered in cold blood for making the wrong move in the presence of a police officer. This moment is not a celebration of peace and unity – it is a glaring demonstration of white privilege.

Even more offensively, the shot of Jenner approaching the police officer is uncomfortably similar to the famous image of Ieshia Evans, a black woman who peacefully approached a line of riot police at a protest against police brutality in Baton Rouge last July.

The soda company claims the ad was “trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding” a Pepsi representative said in a statement on Wednesday.

Unity, peace and understanding are all fine and good, but unity, peace and understanding are not going to solve problems like systemic racism and police brutality in this country. And frankly, it sounds like an excuse for a poorly thought-out commercial.

This advertisement is literally trying to profit off the pain and suffering of the black community to sell cans of soda.

I do not buy the claims that this ad was “well-intentioned” and just “poorly executed.” Pepsi is a multi-billion dollar company. They knew exactly what they were doing.

And they do not care.

Because at the end of the day, Pepsi is just trying to make a profit.

They know Black Lives Matter protests are dominating the headlines and they chose to take advantage of that – regardless of the implications.

Here’s the thing, Pepsi: protesting is not some hip new trend that is cool with the kids these days, like Snapchat filters, long bob haircuts, pithy memes and Ed Sheeran’s latest album.

Protesting is part of a long tradition of marginalized groups fighting for their basic humanity.

Protesting is a serious and profound act born out of the deep-seated suffering and pain of minorities that have been systemically oppressed and brutalized for centuries.

It is not fodder for your capitalist enterprise to make a buck.

Maddy Fowler is the assistant news editor and can be reached at maddy.fowler@ubspectrum.com


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