Pepsi is at the center of controversy after unveiling an ad featuring model and reality starlet Kendall Jenner diffusing a protest by handing a cop a can of the beverage.
Jenner excitedly tweeted the 30-second ad Tuesday, April 4, where she was in the middle of a photo shoot before a protester outside her window motioned for her to join the movement. Jenner agrees and rips off her blonde wig, hands it to a Black woman standing by and joins the demonstration. The 21-year-old’s TV spot wraps with her recreating the iconic photo of a Black Live Matter protester facing riot-gear-wearing Baton Rouge law enforcement, except Jenner hands a uniformed officer a can of Pepsi resulting in a cheer from the crowd of protesters.
“A short film about the moments when we decide to let go, choose to act, follow our passion and nothing holds us back,” Pepsi described the ad on YouTube. “Capturing the spirit and actions of those people that jump into every moment and featuring multiple lives, stories and emotional connections that show passion, joy, unbound and uninhibited moments. No matter the occasion, big or small, these are the moments that make us feel alive.”
“This is a global ad that reflects people from different walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony,” Pepsi told BuzzFeedNews of the controversy. “And we think that’s an important message to convey.”
The public found the ad distasteful and shared its sentiments online.
Bernice King, Dr. King’s youngest daughter, shared her feelings.
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) April 5, 2017
— Charles M. Blow (@CharlesMBlow) April 5, 2017
If the Kardashian Jenners loved black people as much as loved black appropriation they would march in the streets with us instead of in ads.
— Aja Barber (@AjaSaysHello) April 5, 2017
They're trying to recreate the second image which is just mind boggling. This commercial makes me want to gouge my eyes out lmao pic.twitter.com/M6eevDa9gj
— BLACK LIVES MATTER (@spiritb0red) April 4, 2017
Others thought the ad oversimplified the tensions between the Black community and police.
I wish Eric Garner knew all he needed was a Pepsi. Smh
— X (@XLNB) April 5, 2017
*Cop raises nightstick over unarmed black person*
*Black person timidly offers cop Pepsi in their hand*
*Cop apologizes, hugs them*
— Jamie is TIRED. Fix your goddamned country. (@thewayoftheid) April 4, 2017
— Jia Tolentino (@jiatolentino) April 4, 2017
*kendall jenner hands cop a pepsi*
cop: im not racist anymore
— Brandon Wardell (@BRANDONWARDELL) April 4, 2017
who else is reminded of Dr Martin Luther King's famously resonant "I have a Pepsi" speech pic.twitter.com/xX5h3it3d1
— Scott Ludlam (@Scottludlam) April 4, 2017
Some mockingly reflected on how Pepsi could have changed history.
"Now just wait one second officers.
I have a Pepsi." pic.twitter.com/NW0sddKOOI
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) April 5, 2017
"Kendall please! Give him a Pepsi!" pic.twitter.com/IntFNmCpTr
— Zito (@_Zeets) April 4, 2017
One person poked fun at Pepsi’s insertion into famous historical photos.
— Ethan Anderton (@Ethan_Anderton) April 4, 2017
Another hoped something good would come out of the advertisement.
Update: Pepsi pulled the ad featuring Kendall Jenner Wednesday, April 5 due after it was met with criticism.
“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize,” the company said in a press release. “We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are removing the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”