Pepsi ad misses mark with student audience

Negative reactions began almost immediately after model Kendall Jenner handed off a can of Pepsi to a police officer in a Pepsi commercial.

Pepsi’s recent advertising failure has been the hot popular culture topic for the past week. The ad proved to be completely tone deaf.

The 2-minute 40-second advertisement, titled “Live For Now,” portrays a street protest, hinting at the Black Lives Matter movement. The protesters seem to be only young, attractive people, and their styles and ethnicities check all of the boxes of multiculturalism. As they march down the street, a woman photographer in a hijab and an Asian man playing a cello all hear the commotion and run to the street from their apartments. Then, Kendall Jenner, who happens to be standing in a doorway for a fashion photo shoot, also joins.

Now the center of attention, Jenner grabs a Pepsi can and walks up to the line of stern cops. Jenner hands the Pepsi to one of the cops. The officer opens it, takes a sip and the crowd goes wild. Everything is solved by Jenner and a single can of Pepsi.

The ad seems like a good idea if you skim over all of the stereotypes, but Pepsi failed to realize how offensive the stereotypes were.

PepsiCo received an immense amount of backlash from the public and media only hours after it launched, including Martin Luther King’s daughter, Bernice King, who tweeted her response to the world: “Only if Daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi.”

The Late Show host Stephen Colbert called the whole premise of the ad an “Attractive People Matter” protest.

On Saturday Night Live, Beck Bennett portrayed the writer-director of the ad who was completely clueless about the ad’s premise, and finds out only at the last minute when he explains the commercial to his sister on the phone. The viewer sees Bennett’s excitement drain away from his face as he hears his sister’s response, and then replies “Kinda tone deaf?”

On Late Night with Seth Meyers, the host reimagined the ad’s ending with an African American woman giving the white cop a Pepsi. It seems to go well until the cop drops his smile and then says, “We’re gonna need some backup.” The tag line was “Live … For Now.”

Students at Cedar Fall High School also felt the ad hit the wrong notes.

“I think Pepsi had good intentions, but it just didn’t work out, ” ninth grade student Sofia Munoz said. “It was not a good representation of historical events, but people just seemed very sensitive on the whole topic.”

“I don’t think Kendall Jenner was the right fit for the actress they chose. A celebrity who hasn’t done much for the world was not a good idea,” ninth grade student Maitri Christensen said.

PepsiCo has no one to blame but itself. The ad was created by Pepsi’s in-house advertising group, called “Creators League Studio.” On last Wednesday, PepsiCo released a brief statement of apology that said in its entirety, “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. We are removing the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.” They pulled the advertisement.

According to trade journal Advertising Age, last Wednesday, the day PepsiCo withdrew the ad. It drew “1.25 million mentions on on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, with 58.6 percent of them negative.”

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