The Revolution Will Not Be Commercialized: When Pepsi Appropriates the Resistance

Commercials are created to sell us things. Things that we don’t need, things that aren’t necessarily useful, things that either add or subtract a layer of fat from your belly, things that are shiny, that will make us more beautiful, things that will supposedly somehow transform our reality. Don Draper wasn’t selling us a feeling, he was selling us things. We do live in capitalist America after all.

If you haven’t guessed what this week’s meditation is about by now, then you’re one of the lucky ones who didn’t see Kendall Jenner’s new Pepsi commercial. Here are the CliffNotes: Millennials are protesting outside while two young artists of color pour over their respective crafts in their respective studios. What are millennials protesting here? Apparently, it is of no importance. The signs are vague, which is telling of how the minds behind this commercial perceive recent demonstrations. Oh, you know. They’re young and rowdy. They’re protesting something new every day. Jenner, empowered by seeing these young folks demonstrating, whips off her blonde wig, wipes off her lipstick (minimal beauty = maximum activism), and joins the protest. In a moment of silence, our gorgeous supermodel savior grabs a can of Pepsi and begins walking towards a row of cops that are barricading protestors from continuing further. She hands the cop a Pepsi. The crowd erupts in cheers. Jenner’s faux hippie-putting-a-flower-in-a-cop’s-gun moment just saved everyone from corruption. There is no need to protest any longer because a handsome cop accepted a Pepsi from a white supermodel.

I mean… I am guessing if you’ve read any installments of this column, you probably don’t need a brief on why this is problematic. If you’ve turned on the news and heard of a young black person being murdered by cops, you likely get why this is disgusting. If you’re aware of how frightening protests can be for people of color, I am pretty sure you get why this sucks. If you are completely ignorant to this all, feel free to review some resources we’ve curated for you.

You may be thinking “Okay Julia, but it is just an ad that fell flat. Who cares? No one drinks Pepsi anyways!” This may be true, but I can’t help but think about why this happened. I wonder what the people who were funding this were like. I have no clue what a Pepsi advertising executive looks like, but I would guess a person of color, particularly one under the age of 40, wouldn’t co-sign on this commercial. I suppose this comes down to one of my favorite adages: Don’t hate the player, hate the game. Hundreds of people likely signed off on this, so what does it take to get at least a few key players who are socially aware in there?

As I type this, Pepsi has officially released a statement apologizing.

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.”

Missed the mark? Clearly.

L’Agent Goodies…