Pepsi has pulled its controversial advertisement starring model Kendall Jenner that borrowed imagery from Black Lives Matter and other movements, after a day of scorching criticism from people who said it trivialized widespread protests against the killings of black people by the police, the New York Times reported.
The company apologized for its ad in a statement Wednesday, saying: “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark and apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout.”
Jenner herself participated in the rollout of the ad, which was posted to YouTube Tuesday. She pinned a video link to the ad her Twitter account as a way of pumping up her new gig as a Pepsi spokesperson.
The ad shows attractive young people holding signs with nonspecific pleas like “Join the conversation.” The protesters are uniformly smiling, laughing, clapping, hugging and high-fiving.
Jenner is seen in the ad participating in a photo shoot but is shown becoming distracted by the protesters and joins them. Towards the end, she comes face-to-face with a stoic police officer. She offers him a Pepsi and he accepts the drink before cracking a smile.
That particular moment, featuring a white model, was thought to be a reminder of photos of Ieshia Evans, a protester who was detained by law enforcement while protesting in Baton Rouge following the shooting death of Alton Sterling at the hands of police.
Commentators on social media lashed out at both Jenner and Pepsi, accusing the company of appropriating imagery from serious protests like Black Lives Matters or the Women’s Marches to sell its product.
“Apparently, someone over at Pepsi noticed that, ever since Trump got elected, people have been more inclined to shout things in the street and make genitalia-inspired crafts,” writes the Daily Beast’s Amy Zimmerman.
Zimmerman also imagined an industrious Pepsi employee wondering how to capitalize on all this political energy: “Which hot young celebrity/social-media influencer can we hire to convince consumers that Pepsi is the carbonated soft drink of the Resistance?”
And so we got this ad. It didn’t help that it was trending on the the 49th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.
As the negative backlash continued, Pepsi defended its commercial in this statement to Adweek: “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.”
But as the Huffington Post noted, Pepsi has indeed succeeded in bringing people together. Now people from all different walks of life are coming together to rip the commercial in Twitter.
Jenner’s own Twitter feed, announcing the commercial, was filled with angry, mocking tweets.
Others on Twitter continued to make note of the ad’s timing to the assassination of King or its attempt to appropriate the political energy of the Civil Rights Movement and Black Lives Matter.