Media Blog Project #2

In April 2017, Pepsi launched a controversial ad staring Kendall Jenner. It showed various imagery invoking protests against President Donald Trump as well as the Black Lives Matter movement. The ad was almost universally panned accused of using minorities to sell soda.

First off, you can follow along with this ad here.

In this 2 minute and 39 second long commercial, it basically showed an Asian man playing a chello, a Photographer wearing a Hijab, and a bunch of protesters holding signs such as "Join the Conversation" and "Love"..... oh and Kendall Jenner at a photo shoot.

This add tried to mix both "Bandwagon" and "Famous Person Testimonial" techniques into the ad, along with images invoking BLM, Anti-Trump Protests....but without actually using any of BLM's slogans.... or actually having the protesters hold any signs other than the ambiguous. That is where the ad failed to make an emotional connection....while still invoking the consequences that brings, which we will get to in a bit.

Of course, the ad's target audience is Pepsi's usual targets, 18-34 year olds, middle class. Of course, this goes the extra mile to target minorities and those on the American Left. Of course, this is where the ad fell flat on its face.

Most of the people in the commercial are "token minorities", specifically, have one Asian guy for the sole sake of having an Asian guy in the commercial. Same with the Muslim woman. Same with the black men doing hip hop dances around 1:14.

Of course, that is the major weakness of this entire ad campaign. They basically over used stereotypes, and then invoked BLM... to sell soda. If that wasn't bad enough, the entire message of the ad is "Pepsi stops cops from shooting black people".

The ad's strength. That they actually got a celebrity to do it... but again, it's Kendall Jenner, so you do have to question her knowledge about the ads content, and how... controversial that was.

The New York Times ran with "Pepsi Pulls Ad Accused of Trivializing Black Lives Matter", where Daniel Victor writes:

"In torrid criticism after the ad was posted, commentators on social media accused Pepsi of appropriating imagery from serious protests to sell its product, while minimizing the danger protesters encounter and the frustration they feel."

Miriam Bale of The Hollywood Reporter wrote in an opinion piece:

"By the end of the long commercial, when Jenner walks up to the line of police to hand one officer a Pepsi and single-handedly ends police brutality as the crowd cheers, it’s clear that this image is inspired by a photo of a specific black woman, Ieshia Evans, bravely standing up to police in riot gear at a BLM protest in Baton Rouge last July. The core of the ad is this image that is not just borrowed but stolen from Twitter, from memes, from IEvans, and from the lost lives of all those for whom BLM protesters were in the streets."

Of course, the best thing that came out of this was the Saturday Night Live parody. 

Of course, at this point, I think the ad failed at its core message, and in fact, repulsed part of it's target audience because the ad trivialized the BLM movement... a bad idea.. 

So, this ad makes me want to stay far away from Pepsi products because the ad was... extremely tone deaf. 

In conclusion, I learned that big corporations are not above cashing in on social movements for a quick buck, even when it trivializes said movement.  


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