Pepsi's latest commercial stars Kendall Jenner as a model, who dramatically abandons her photoshoot to join a protest baring signs that read "love" and "join the conversation." Though shots of various marginalized bodies, from people of color to transgender women, are featured in the short clip, Jenner is ultimately the one who makes peace with a police offer by simply offering him a can of Pepsi--it's that easy, huh?
The new ad, made by Pepsi's in-house team Creators League Studio, has garnered significant backlash, with viewers saying the brand has co-opted the resistance to sell soda. Many are specifically referencing a photo of Leshia Evans, who was photographed this summer at the Baton Rouge protest in Louisiana after the fatal shooting of a black man by police. The iconic image shows her peacefully confronting a line of heavily armed police, as two rush forward to put her in handcuffs.
\u201cthe new @Pepsi ad evoking imagery of @IeshiaEvans in Baton Rouge is total exploitative brand social activism bs \ud83d\udc4b\ud83c\udffc\u201d
After yesterday's viral uproar, Pepsi officially responded to the criticism, saying, "This is a global ad that reflects people from different walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony, and we think that's an important message to convey."
Yes, harmony is important in these divisive times and there's certainly never enough diversity in global advertisements--but when an opportunistic corporation commodifies the very real struggles of oppressed people, they'd better expect the people will voice their opinions.