I won’t even wait till the end to reveal the “what”: I haven’t drunk Pepsi in a long time. Pepsi products, yes. But the beverage, nope. Yes, your favorite juice mixer, Ocean Spray, is a Pepsi product; which, I like to drink to pretend I’m healthy.
How did I first hear about this commercial? From this compelling headline, “Pepsi and Kendall Jenner Save the Day with a Can of Pop and White Privilege”. It worked. I clicked. I read. Effective.
Let’s talk about the video I just watched.
I’m not offended by Pepsi’s “Live For Now Moments Anthem” advertisement as much as I am disappointed. Pepsi materialized a form of demonstration used to lobby equal civil liberties. I’m sure we all want marches and protest to be fun and conveniently turn into free impromptu concerts and street performances, but not in this country.
Pepsi’s advertisement is a perfect example of what happens when brands commercialize actual social issues and civil unrest to make it work with the brand’s product(s).
“How can we market Pepsi with #BlackLivesMatter?” I’m positive that was a question asked in a scheduled weekly meeting to brainstorm the next million-dollar ad campaign. If if wasn’t this commercial wouldn’t even exist. There comes a time when you have to accept oil is oil and water is water: there is no scientific formula to make either liquid miscible.
Think Black Lives Matter and the Women’s March as water. Think of Pepsi as oil. Now think of how you can make the two one. Product placement is the only technique that comes to mind to sensibly tie dehydrated protesters with a Pepsi can or bottle. It doesn’t work. Not because dehydrated protestors won’t want a sip to drink, but because Pepsi has nothing to do with the message. What we have here is a case of billion dollar corporations inviting themselves to social movements and making the product the center of attention—stealing the spotlight.
When you watch the two-minute ad, you’ll see signs reading “join the conversation.” Is Pepsi joining the conversation? If we drink Pepsi will we join the conversation? What’s the true message this ad is sending because we all know the call-to-action is obvious: drink Pepsi.
Now it’s not that I don’t like the Kardashian-Jenner family because they’re famous for being famous. But you have to ask what does Kendall Jenner offer to a commercial on civil reform when she has yet to be affiliated with civil reform? Pepsi relied on a public figure solely on her star power and celebrity status and that’s what grinds my gears. Since she’s a model, she’s modeling in the commercial, wipes of her lipstick, and tosses her blonde wig to the side to join an Asian cello player and Muslim photographer in the street with some Black pop-locking dancers. Who all, by the way, joined the march as if it were a passing by conga line.
I can give a list of advocates who push for civil justice, human rights, immigration reform, police accountability, healthcare, etc. who would have been the perfect face to play the main protagonist. Matter of fact I will:
Colin Kaepernick – Blackballed by the NFL because he openly protests against police brutality.
Deray Mckesson – Arrested while protesting.
Jesse Williams – Just watch his BET Humanitarian Award acceptance speech.
Alicia Keys – BLM & Women’s March supporter. Oh and super famous.
Janelle Monae – Pre-established history with Pepsi and Women’s March marcher. Win-Win.
Ieshia Evans – For obvious reasons
The list can go on and on. However, since all names above are missing what I like to call “the white factor”, the opposite of “the black factor”, they’re overlooked for a 20-year-old white woman who in her 20 years of life has probably made more than money someone working a median income job for 20 years.
This commercial has failed America so terribly that the gag is Pepsi absolves anyone who has committed crimes against civil rights with a can of soda. This commercial reminds me of the question portion in beauty pageants when the contestant is asked, “What is the one most important thing the world needs?” and contestant responds, “World peace.”
You mean to tell us the tear gas, rubber bullets, police dogs, pepper spray, tasers, water hose, batons, handcuffs, and guns were all optional? A 12 ounce can of Pepsi could have gotten African Americans to the 1965 Voting Rights Act faster? A 12 ounce can of Pepsi exchange between protestor and police officer doesn’t have to end with a baton to the head? Take note America, bring Pepsi. Pack Coca-Cola and think it will have the same result as Pepsi will have you up a creek without a paddle, so heed my advice: bring Pepsi to the next riot.