Pepsi’s ad officially titled ‘Live for Now Moments Anthem’ starts with young people protesting in the streets holding signs with the message “join the conversation”. It features reality model Kendall Jenner who leaves her photo shoot, takes off her wig and joins the protesters. In the protests, she offers a police officer a can of Pepsi which he accepts with a smile. This sets off loud cheers and celebrations from the protesting crowd behind her.
This image brought a lot of reaction and criticism from social media and commentators referring to the ad as the opposite of the real life experience of protesters who protest against the killings of black people by the police.
Many people likened the scene to the image of Ieshia Evans standing her ground while being charged by riot police during a protest against police brutality in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in July last year.
Even Bernice King, the youngest child of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King tweeted about the ad, connecting it to past protests.
Pepsi apologized for the controversial advertisement saying, “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace, and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark and apologize,” the statement continued: “We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout.”
Soda companies sell aggressively to young consumers more than any other age group. Both Coca-Cola and Pepsi fight for the same market share. They have always sold a message of global unity to the young generation. However, things did not go as expected with this ad. Within 48 hours of posting the advertisement on Youtube, the video got 1.6 million views with a lot of negative reaction. In fact, even Pepsi stopped defending the ad and pulled it down. To conclude, the reaction to the ad and not the ad itself brought people together in ways not expected and the ad’s impact on Pepsi sales is yet to be seen.