Pepsi Ran an Ad about Peace, and Somehow Got It All Wrong

"Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding…clearly, we missed the mark, and we apologise. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologise for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.” -- Pepsi, 2017



Alright, what the f*** do you have to do to find the need to issue such an apology?! In what world did someone make the strategic business decision to roll out an ad so obscene that the entire world united against it. Someone tell me how that is possible? In what world?

Shoutouts to our world for being that world.

Overnight, Pepsi seemingly made an enemy of the entire human race, for what (I’m sure Pepsi was hoping) was the most lighthearted of ads. Their most recent jaunt in the advertising world was more of a short film than an advert. It had its own soundtrack and everything, and it was a a commercially bad one. This was the R Kelly of adverts - decent production value, had superstar promise, but still wet the fucking bed.

In the advert, we begin with a protest; comprised exclusively of young people of all races and genders; being carried out through the streets. God knows what they're protesting about, their signs didn't make much sense, and Pepsi (whom I will now refer to exclusively as ‘R-Kelly’) even made up a new word, the “Oconversation”. You cut to a scene of some dude playing the cello, drinking a refreshing R-Kelly (I’m presuming because he couldn't find a Coke) and he notices the protest on the street outside his beautiful spacious R-Kelly themed apartment, and in line with his assumed #woke-ness, he joins in (hopefully he has a better understanding about what the protest is about).

As the protest gets bigger, and passes cafes lined with observers (all also drinking bottles of R-Kelly), we cut to a blonde Kendall Jenner hanging out in a photoshoot just generally being a good looking human being - and for about thirty seconds she has a seemingly internal conflict about whether or not to join in. Suddenly, with the most subtly determined ~~ FUCK IT ~~ facial expression I have ever seen, she joins in with the twenty somethings in their protest.

During this time, a young female photographer (wearing hijab) is getting very frustrated with her photography (yes there are multiple plot lines here Game of Thrones fans look out). Also noticing the protest, the young woman decides to grab her camera and step out into the throngs of youth, to get the perfect picture (Jonathan Bachman eat your heart out).

This basically culminates in Kendall and the cello player falling in love (we think?), Kendall pulling a nice crispy cold R-Kelly out of a chilly bin, handing it to a riot cop, and our photographer friend gets the perfect shot of it, a la the Alton Sterling protests. Basically the cop fucking loves R-Kelly, you can see it in his eyes, and the young people win the protest. Game over. No more problems. World peace for all, Halle-fucking-lujah.

Hopefully you've also managed to find the time to watch this advert yourself, because yes, it is as absurd as I just described. No more absurd than the fact the entire protest is colour coordinated in a peachy shade of R-Kelly blue (notable lack of the colour Red anywhere), somehow this city has also decided that blatant double-denim is totally appropriate and in fact encouraged, and also I don’t know where in the world a protest could pull such incredible diversity, but I want to go live there.

Alright now I will start calling Pepsi by it’s real name again.

I’m sorry Pepsi adverting team, but you've gone and ruined yourself. Just a few things, never make light of serious issues in advertising, I understand what you're trying to do: send a message of peace and unity. As a marketing student I understand the thought process, try to associate Pepsi with concepts of love and unity and peace, I get it. But, Coke beat you to it. About forty years ago. It was even the final scene of Mad Men (maybe Pepsi’s ad people only just caught up).

The reason I write this is because Pepsi did nothing but get under peoples skin with this ad (a job usually reserved for Russell Brand), but they did so in a way that I’m sure was overflowing with good intentions. However what I am not sure of, was the thought process behind it. This subject is not for the domain of advertisements. Carefully crafted, meticulously researched films and books, and peer-reviewed academic papers have been doing their part for social commentary on issues of race, police brutality, and the range of isms in this world, advertising doesn't need to throw in their two cents. And the internet went nuts because of it, with so many people outraged at Pepsi for trivialising and appropriating the Black Lives Matter movement. Bernice King even jumped in on the action.

And even if we understood what they were doing, this is just an absolute shit show of an attempt, and I feel a tiny bit bad (only very remotely) because I’m sure the Pepsi boardroom were really excited about it. Protest imagery, as it turns out, is not appropriate for marketing sugary fizzy water. Just make us forget it’s bad for our teeth and body and don’t remind us that your marketing team has been losing to Coke for decades.  If you can do anything useful right now, it is tell us what they were protesting in the ad, because as far as I can see, this town has some backward Footloose-town laws about drinking Coke, because thats the only explanation for the excessive amount of Pepsi being drunk in this youthful, diverse, but militant town.


(Photo cred from here)


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