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Following Backlash, Pepsi Pulls Tone-Deaf Kendall Jenner ‘Protest’ Ad

Screen Shot, Pepsi Ad Starring Kendall Jenner

Screen Shot, Pepsi Ad

UPDATE:  Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi ad is no more. Viewers were not pleased by Pepsi’s choice to use iconic protest imagery to sell soda. Critics argued that the ad trivialized issues like police brutality, Islamophobia and racism — that it attempted to capitalize on the current fraught political climate.

Still, as of Wednesday morning, Pepsi stuck by its creative choice, issuing the following statement in defense of the ad: “This is a global ad that reflects people from different walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony, and we think that’s an important message to convey.”

Hours later, the brand retracted its statement and announced it would be pulling the ad. “Pepsi was trying to project a global 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,” wrote Pepsi in a statement. “We are removing the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”

Jenner has since deleted all traces of the ad from her Instagram and Twitter accounts. ET Online reports that Jenner is “devastated” by the controversy. “This is the first controversial campaign she has been involved with,” an anonymous source told the publication. “Even though she had nothing to do with the production and the message of the campaign, she will be blamed for this since she is the face.”

Screen Shot, Pepsi Ad with Kendall Jenner

Screen Shot, Pepsi Ad

April 4, 2017

Back in the early 2000s, Pepsi became known for its boppy, sugary sweet ads populated by Britney Spears’ enviable abs and a horde of breakdancing backup dancers. That was a simpler time. Now, our heads are filled with weightier topics, like immigration bans and police brutality, and our soda commercials are no longer light and bubbly.

Case in point: supermodel and newly minted soda spokesperson Kendall Jenner’s debut Pepsi ad titled “Jump In.” Set to Skip Marley’s “Lions,” the ad shows the model on set in Bangkok, posing against a nondescript wall in a blond wig, silver cocktail dress and sheer black button-down. Around her, a diverse mob of millennials marches for peace. Jenner looks over the crowd and links eyes with one rather attractive male protester. Suddenly, her social conscience kicks in. She ditches the shoot (and wig) and joins the protest. The marchers fuel themselves with Pepsi. Jenner has a miraculous idea. She grabs a can and hands it off to one of the policemen standing on the sidelines, respectfully observing the demonstration. He happily accepts. A young photographer wearing a hijab snaps a photo of the exchange. (Pepsi: the great unifier.)

Part of Pepsi’s global “Moments” campaign, the video calls upon soda drinkers to “Live For Now.” (Because they’re shortening their life by imbibing high fructose corn syrup?) “I think a lot of people are caught up in whatever’s happening in someone else’s life and they’re not really paying attention to what’s happening right in front of them most of the time,” said Jenner of the campaign’s message. “It’s not hard to put your phone down and consciously try and get yourself to live in the moment. That’s what I try and do.”

While we’re all for peace and love, Pepsi’s vague, tone-deaf messaging lacks a certain…self-awareness. We miss the days when soft drinks weren’t politicized — and politics weren’t commodified. Watch Jenner’s ad above [editor’s note: the video has been removed by Pepsi as of 4/6/17], then hit play on the #tbt below and join us in some much-needed reminiscing.

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[ via WWD ]