Pepsi exposes its ignorance
April 11, 2017
The Kardashian-Jenner clan is the center of yet another race-driven scandal. As one of America’s most famous families, this isn’t the first time the reality TV stars have come under fire for insensitivity to racial issues, most prominently for cultural appropriation.
This is why it’s no surprise that Kim Kardashian’s younger stepsister and high profile model, Kendall Jenner, is under major media scrutiny concerning her involvement in Pepsi’s most recent advertising campaign. Though the campaign has since been pulled, it has continued to create a lot of buzz because it reveals a larger issue — the glorification of white womanhood.
The commercial featured a model, Jenner, distracted by a peace protest that Twitter users have speculated is supposed to represent the Black Lives Matter movement; however, since this is never explicitly stated, it’s unclear as to if Pepsi is even taking a stand to promote its message.
It’s one thing if Pepsi had accurately encouraged the message of Black Lives Matter with an organizer’s guidance, but by taking advantage of a relevant topic and refusing to back a clear message, the ad becomes exploitation.
Upon joining the march, Jenner picks up a Pepsi and presents it to a police officer who accepts it, followed by cheering from the protesters. The soda company’s goal was to empower consumers to “live louder” and open up a discussion about social justice issues. But, the commercial completely missed the mark and backfired into an insulting trivialization of protests and risks people of color take to stand up for themselves.
If Pepsi wanted to make an empowering, unifying statement encouraging audiences to speak up for what they believe in, it should have approached the issue in a way that didn’t scream the unrealistic yet recently popularized message that pretty white women — coupled with Pepsi — are the solution to any problem.
It’s clear the ad’s creators have a faulty understanding of the courage it takes for people of color to participate in active demonstrations. The effortless manner in which Jenner is able to simply offer a soda to an officer with mass approval is improbable and fails to shed light on police brutality — an essential topic of the demonstrations Pepsi exploited.
If you can’t understand the unfair connotations of the message Pepsi is sending and demand that others don’t take issue with the way protests are presented in this campaign, you are also failing to recognize the historical implications of demonstrations as explained by Bernice King’s tweet regarding her father and the “Taking a Stand” photo of Ieshia Evans, a black woman who was arrested during a protest.
It’s insulting that Pepsi wrongfully tried to benefit off of the topic of peaceful demonstrations and threw in Kendall Jenner to attract a certain demographic. However, even though Pepsi apologized to Kendall Jenner for “putting (her) in this position,” it doesn’t mean she shouldn’t also take responsibility for a project she agreed to.
It’s Pepsi’s responsibility to apologize to protesters and educate the individuals who were in charge of approving this campaign instead of sympathizing with the model who will likely continue to thrive and benefit from her racial and economic privilege.
This commercial would never have been approved if there were enough people of color in charge of the advertising campaigns, exposing a fatal flaw in Pepsi’s advertising department. This being said, if people of color weren’t in charge of this advertisement, this indicates that Pepsi was exploiting a message that wasn’t the company’s to take advantage of and failed to use its media exposure to promote an actual cause of concern.
Advertising is an incredible way to spread messages and influence the public, but with great power comes great responsibility; we can all learn from the mistakes Pepsi and Kendall Jenner have made.
The creators of this campaign are awful for attempting to benefit off of a socially relevant message without understanding the true importance and severity of it.
Jamie is a freshman in Media.