by G. Brown
Pepsi’s new ad about unity, peace and understanding caused so much division, calamity and misunderstanding that the cola colossus decided to just nix the ad.
TRN told you on Wednesday in our article What’s Wrong With Pepsi’s New Commercial–EVERYTHING! about how the ad campaign fizzled out against a backdrop of tons of complaints. The new commercial featured Kendall Jenner (of the Kardashian klan) as the voice of a new generation. The ad used video from numerous recent protests around the country to set up the atmosphere of unrest and featured Jenner as coming to the rescue. In the commercial, Jenner offers an officer on a police line at a protest a Pepsi and harmony is reached.
Pepsi initially defended the commercial saying it had hoped the spot would actually help people “people from different walks of life [come] together in a spirit of harmony.” Well, people did come together…many united to hate on the commercial. People criticized the ad as being insensitive and that it trivialized protests that have been held to fight for Black lives, against the Muslim ban and for equality of women. Adding injury to insult was the timing of the ads’ release…Pepsi’s commercial was trending on April 4th, the anniversary date of the assassination of Civil Rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.
Initially, Pepsi tried to weather the social media storm that the commercial unleashed. But the complaints reached avalanche mode as even King’s daughter Bernice lodged a formal protest with her Twitter post….
King’s powerful post may have been the last straw. Pepsi released a statement on the same day saying it was in effect pulling the plug on the ad. In the statement, the company said, “Pepsi was trying to project a global a message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”
Jenner was not to blame…seriously, if somebody offers you however much money to boost their brand, you take it. Can’t fault the girl for that. Pepsi at least recognized the error of its ways and apologized. The brand will survive this public crucible just like Tylenol survived its poisoning scare of the 80s and Toyota’s deadly acceleration problem in 2009. But hopefully Pepsi and other big brands will take note that you can’ t just see how many followers someone has on social media, decide they are the voice of the people, add a tender soundtrack and a lot of news video as if you are offering a solution. Pepsi would have been better off if instead of offering the police officer a soda, they were seeing hauling fresh water into Flint…or donating scholarship funds to help minorities get to college. The best PR is to really care and to really do something about it.