Fake Pepsi Protest in New Jenner Ad Actually Happened IRL

Soda Company’s Social Justice Hypocrisy Exposed

The internet is outraged over a new ad by Pepsi featuring Kendall Jenner whitewashing Black Lives Matter and commodifying the resistance movement to sell Pepsi. How can a huge brand with so many levels of approval create such a tone deaf ad that tokenizes people of color and wears social justice activism like it’s the latest fashion?

Selling soda as social justice is a trend. Soda companies have a long history of using protest imagery, supporting causes, and even staging fake protests, to mask the real threat their own sugary products pose to the health of POC and LGBTQ communities.

Set aside the obvious white savior narrative, all the laughable fake peace signs, pausing for march selfies, the attempt to integrate a love story… the core idea of the ad is that Kendal Jenner confronts police brutality with a can of Pepsi and everyone cheers. Holy shit this is not a parody.

Unfortunately ads as activism are more popular than ever. “Corporate responsibility” now gets a pass (and even praise) in this country for creating wealth for corporations while pretending to align with causes their products actually work against. Brands get a “social justice halo” for donating a dollar to charity no matter their corporation’s actual impact on social justice. It’s hard to forget the laughable example fried chicken for cancer research. And soda companies are some of the worst offenders.

Soda Hurts People of Color Most

Let’s be clear: Sugary drinks like Pepsi are consumed more and create enormous health disparities for people of color. Soda fuels higher rates of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease among poor communities, especially for black and Latinx Americans.

Food advertising targeted to Hispanic and Black youth (2015)

This isn’t an accident, in fact it’s a success of soda industry target marketing. Soda executives carefully target black and brown kids with 2X as many ads in their neighborhoods, and black boys drink significantly less water because of it. Capitalism applauds this as “smart” marketing while black diabetics are literally maimed with amputations and die early every day.

“Racial-ethnic targeted food marketing likely contributes to health disparities” — Rudd Center for Food Policy

Black lives are how soda companies profit. A soda company’s whole business model of selling higher and higher volume Big Gulps (35 teaspoons of sugar) while maintaining artificially low prices preys on those who can’t afford alternatives or don’t realize what they’re consuming until it’s too late. Soda companies could target higher income groups with soda an occasional “treat” at a much higher luxury price… but the profit must not be as high nor the consumer as expendable.

The Black Lives Matter movement calls for the divestment from exploitative forces and demands investments in the education, health and safety of Black people. Time to divest from Pepsi in favor of funding efforts that eliminate health inequities.

This Rally Brought to You By Big Soda

The soda industry is actively lobbying in 2017 to perpetuate health inequity and silence community voice. They’re likely in your state capitol. Right now.

Communities like San Francisco, Boulder, Philadelphia, and Santa Fe are standing up to tax soda companies in order to fund local health efforts, especially targeting the elimination of health inequities caused by the soda industry. These campaigns are led by parents, doctors, immigrants, teachers — real citizens engaged in civil discourse. So the soda industry tries to stage equal and opposite fake protests in opposition because they think they activism can be bought.

Yes, the fake Pepsi protests in the ads are happening in real life.

Soda companies fly into cities near you and create fake citizen front-groups. They call themselves local, and use fear-mongering to scare POC in start in their ads branding the taxes as regressive. Yet local non-profits lead by and serving POC (like NAACP in Philadelphia or Latino Chamber of Commerce in Boulder) support soda taxes because soda-related diseases are the real regressive force and funding health efforts is actually the solution. But that’s nuance is all too complicated for the consumer to understand, thinks the soda companies, and they advertise their fake protests like crazy.

Soda companies have now used this fake grassroots tactic in nearly every town who is working to educate about the harms soda, more than 15 times.

In Santa-Fe New Mexico literally right now, soda companies are funding two fake activist groups to fight against the campaign to fund Pre-K for poor New Mexicans, mostly from Latinx families, with a soda tax. Soda companies even are trying to silence the community activists by passing preemptive legislation stripping their power from the state level.

“Big Soda is funding a local group that opposes a sugary beverage tax to pay for pre-K” — Retired Judge Michael Vigil

In San-Francisco, soda companies staged a full fake protest led by an employee of their public relations firm (Nick Panagopoulos) with a megaphone. They paid protestors to wave signs and pretend to care about the poorest San Francisco residents. Oh and they win “advertising” awards for this fake grassroots opposition.

In Boulder, the soda industry “duped” businesses who spoke different languages and published their planted outrage as coalition members in newspaper ads without their permission. Soda companies even pretended to align themselves with Bernie Sanders activists, even after Bernie Sanders sent them a cease-and-desist letters to stop.

“Bernie Sanders is against it. That’s what they told us to push.” — Paid anti-tax canvasser in Boulder

Fake Activism Leaked as Global Soda Tactic

Internal emails leaked from Coca-Cola executives last year revealed fake coalitions are actually part of the coordinated strategy to confuse voters and win the soda companies policy agenda, which is anti-health, anti-environment, and anti-recycling.

Soda companies tried to create fake protests in Philadelphia to oppose a soda tax to fund Pre-K across the city, helping address early inequity for poor and black communities most.

“A tax on these beverages at the point of distribution is a painless contribution as the city now works to establish, for the first time, a great equalizer in universal pre-K.” — Philadelphia NAACP President Rodney Muhammad

Leaked documents show the industry funded and built the “grassroots movement” against the initiative.

“Coalition-building work is underway in the California cities of San Francisco, Richmond, Oakland and Watsonville in preparation for potential beverage tax ballot measures in June or November 2016”
— Leaked email from Jennifer Lemming, Manager of Public Affairs for Coca-Cola in Colorado (2/15/16)
“An industry led, broad-based coalition met today to begin implementing a comprehensive campaign response to the tax proposal. The coalition, having faced beverage tax proposals advanced by the previous administration, is well coordinated and is moving quickly. Coalition efforts include council engagement, continued research and message development, stakeholder outreach, and plans for proactive and reactive media.”
— Leaked email from Lauren Craig, Manager of Public Affairs for Coca-Cola in Philadelphia (2/29/16)

No matter where they pop-up, soda-funded protests and front groups have even all recently used the exact same website template, the same copy writing, and the same mailer design. Because they’re all funded by the American Beverage Association and run by Goddard Gunster advocacy firm out of Washington DC. Yet local journalists consistently cover them as equal and opposite grassroots opposition to real community-led health coalitions.

The fake Pepsi protests in the ads are really happening.

What can you do with your Kendall Jenner + Pepsi outrage?

The real protest movement is protesting Pepsi, not just for a bad ad but for taking no responsibility for their impact on black and brown lives.

  1. Call out soda companies for the hypocrites that they are and stop supporting them with your money. They create dramatic health inequities while co-opting black and Latinx culture in their advertising. Trivializing protest movements is a step too far.
  2. Watch out for soda industry protests and front groups in your town. When they’re found, call them out and expose them quickly. They thrive on public confusion and uncertainly. Don’t let reporters fall for their lies and cover them as an equal “grassroots” coalition.
  3. Support real social justice movements like your local chapter of Black Lives Matter. Do your part to donate to black leaders and ensure resistance efforts don’t get infiltrated by corporate sponsors.

Join us in taking stand against the soda industry. We know what side they’re on — and no amount of money can buy our #PepsiProtest.

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