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3 reasons why the new Pepsi advert is exasperating

Pepsi's latest advert has caused a Twitter storm. Andrew Hamilton-Thomas explains why it's so offensive

If Twitter has done anything since its inception, it has magnified the amount of social justice warriors who sit behind their laptops and smartphones. Today they certainly came out in full force to roundly mock and condemn Pepsi Cola’s latest TV advertisement.

The advert is set on the backdrop of a protest, with Pepsi deliberately making the cause ambiguous, although it’s still obvious given the current climate in America (it's clearly about Black Lives Matter). In it we see the main protagonist (Kendall Jenner), make eye contact with a protestor who encourages her to join the protest in the midst of her own photo shoot. She rips off her blonde wig, wipes away her lipstick, dons feminist-friendly denim attire off camera, and proceeds to pick up a can of Pepsi and give it to a police officer as a peace offering. When the officer has a taste the protestors cheer and the advert ends with the police officer giving his colleague an approving look.

Pepsi is known for capitalising on what’s going on around the world to market its main brand. We saw this with the Berlin Wall TV advert. But that in itself is part of the problem - jumping on the bandwagon.

In this case, many people felt that the makers subtly used the Black Lives Matter movement to further their own brand. And in America, it’s not just police brutality (particularly against blacks), which has been and still is very much a recurring theme since the Civil Rights movement brought it to the world’s attention. The use of a well-off ‘It’ girl to play the role of the heroine, whose socially-engineered white privilege automatically gives her a kind of ‘access all areas’ pass to go from fashion model to social activist for a cause was exasperating for the following reasons:

1. It portrayed Kendall Jenner as the ‘white’ saviour

With Hollywood coming under increasing scrutiny of late for continuously casting white actors in roles for characters of a non-white background, some felt that she had appropriated a serious cause that she could never directly relate to, for a paycheck:

2. Her ‘white privilege’ made her impervious to being subjected to policy brutality

When Kendall decides to join the protestor in the video, she took off her blonde wig, which seemed to symbolise her transforming from a privileged white American ‘It’ girl, to a socially conscious ethnic woman in nought to sixty. But in spite of her symbolic transformation, she would still be deemed by many (particularly black people) to be impervious to police brutality i.e. she can never truly be able to relate to their cause.    

3. She trivialised the importance of Black Lives Matter by suggesting police brutality can be solved with a can of Pepsi

The idea that you could stop police brutality with a can of Pepsi was certainly assuming to some.

Generally speaking, Pepsi has a good reputation for capturing the moment in its TV advertising, especially when it comes to the current climate of the world stage. But unlike their soft drinks, their latest ad seems to have fallen flat.

Andrew is a social commentator, aspiring political journalist and co-presenter for a weekly Christian radio show - The Genesis Show

UPDATE: Pepsi have since apologised for the advert and promised to remove it

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