“If this Pepsi ad is the choice of a new generation, I’m gonna need that generation to turn in its badge,” Margaret Cho.
The marketing execs at Pepsi and the agency it hired to create its new protest-themed campaign centered around that well-known rabble-rouser Kendall Jenner were probably thinking of the Oscar Wilde adage: “there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”
But judging by the vociferous social media reaction since the ad went live, not being talked about might seem like a good idea right about now. Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook, ordinarily so artfully manipulated by the Kardashian-Jenners, exploded in a mixture of open-mouthed disbelief, mockery and outrage at the sub-three-minute spot that showed supermodel Jenner tear herself away from a photo shoot to join an obliquely anti-Trumpist-type protest.
If the scenario of Kendall Jenner becoming a protest icon seemed wholly unlikely in itself, Pepsi is gunning for some fiction prizes at the Clios, the advertising Oscars, with the last act twist. We see the intrepid, undeterred Jenner approaching riot police, who look more than ready to exact some of that ole brutality. But somehow Jenner elicits a rapprochement with only a can of carbonated soda and a winning smile. Cue joyous celebration as the formerly gruff riot policeman puts aside thoughts of pepper spraying the young vagabonds in front of him and feels at the very least refreshed — but given Kendall’s optimistic face, also enlightened.
Beyond the implausibility of the famously apolitical Kendall becoming a modern-day Rosa Luxemburg and leading the masses against The Man, social media users took great issue with Pepsi co-opting protest movements like Black Lives Matter as well as the recent women’s march and travel ban protests for corporate reasons.
Below are some of the more unforgiving reactions to the ad on Twitter.
Pepsi responded to the backlash early Wednesday, saying in a statement, “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.”
See the ad that’s causing so much controversy above.