The truth behind Pepsi's tone-deaf #blacklivesmatter-commodifying TV spot

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Was I the only one who didn’t see it as a blacklivesmatter protest and more of a general or generic peace protest?

And people have forever been trying to use counter culture to market things.


No, not the only one. To me it looked like generic protesters vs generic police. And that’s what makes it so terrible.


That’s naive to think there’s no connection. Companies are constantly trying to pander to younger generations, i can’t tell you how often i hear the words “How do we appeal to millenials?” while at work or see it elsewhere.

Social issues, protests, activism against police brutality have all been very very recent topics and seeing something related in a Pepsi ad doesn’t strike you as even a little bit curious? I find it very sad that they thought it was a good idea to exploit that angle.


Yeah, but just try to make Americans put on those sunglasses.


co-brand them with Snapchat and they’ll fight to put them on.


The problem with that is that there haven’t been generic “peace” protests going on, and there isn’t some general movement that Pepsi is trying to evoke. What we’ve had for the last few years is protests against police over the shooting and killing of unarmed black people, as well as an increasing level of hate and crime against blacks, muslims, Latin Americans, gay, trans… the list goes on. The message of this commercial seems to be “Hey, let’s just buy the police a Pepsi and maybe they’ll stop shooting us,” They might as well have pictured a survivor of the Charleston church shooting giving Dylann Roof a Pepsi. The whole idea delegitimizes the BLM movement, and trivializes the rampant discrimination that is going on and perpetuated by the Trump administration and republicans. We cannot buy these people a Pepsi and hope it’ll be alright. If anything, they’re the ones who should be buying us a Pepsi.

Why did the coke ad work? Different times, for one. Also, they didn’t try to portray a peace protester giving a coke to a national guardsman at Kent State.


But there have been many DIFFERENT protests for many different things. BLM is just one movement among many. I think it would be a worse move to make it s specific protest, as then the others are like “what about me?” So I understand not evoking one specific movement.

To me it showed just in general “Young people speaking their minds… Singing songs and carrying signs”. That perhaps more people (young people) are more politically and culturally aware and working towards something better. At least part of it. Honestly the inclusion of Ms. Jenner is what ruins it.

I dunno - it’s not a great ad, but I see what they were going for. Do they deserve as much flack as they are getting? Maybe. You can’t fool all of the people all of the time, and while trying to be current and edgy, you can cross the line to pandering or bad taste.


There may be a different way it could’ve been done… it still would feel like pandering but they could’ve had a group of officers working with a community to do some volunteer type work. Have them enjoy a Pepsi while doing so.

I don’t know, but the protest ad they went with just irks me.


Yeah and i think that’s where it went wrong. Or at least started to go wrong. Portraying all these “young people” as one cause that could be summed up as “peace” is pretty tone deaf. Then again, the same might have been said of the Coke ad, but at the time people might have been less cynical, or at least the cynical didn’t have the influence they have today.

I think another major flaw in the ad, and a contrast to the coke ad, was the use of a “star” (i use the term loosely) in Kendall Jenner. The ad portrays her as a model who is pretty clueless and indifferent until along come a bunch of peace protesters and she thinks “Hey, I don’t know what this is all about but I’ll join them, and maybe they’d like a Pepsi too!” By the end of the commercial she is their leader, and essentially brokers the peace between them and the police. “Voice of the generation pop star engages in Pepsi diplomacy, peace reigns” is a pretty conceited statement by both Jenner and Pepsi.


This is the core of why I hate advertising in general. If companies would just try to sell their products based on their merits, I wouldn’t have a problem. There’d always be a little puffery, as to be expected, but the commercial would at least consist of the company telling you why their product is useful or desirable, or maybe why it’s superior to a competitor’s. This is how commercials used to be, and how a few of them still are. It’s annoying to sit through, but not infuriating.

What IS infuriating is commercials that try to “connect” with certain groups, or be clever, or exploit real life events for profit, which seems to be most of them. There’s an inherent insincerity and thinly-veiled contempt in these, as the commercial is never about the product itself, but about a feeling or meme or joke that they try to trick consumers into connecting with the product. What does Pepsi have to do with protests, or Coke with world peace, or Mentos with wacky shenanigans? Absolutely fucking nothing. They end up looking tone-deaf because marketers are, by definition, mentally twisted apologists who are forced to continually come up with rationalizations for why people will actually LOVE the thing they don’t want to be watching and wish would go away. Their entire career is trying to shove things down peoples’ unwilling gullets and take as much of their money as possible, so I imagine it’s hard to convincingly “connect” with groups they know nothing about and care about even less.

Of course, when your product is something everyone already knows about anyway and its selling point is “brown sugar water largely responsible for America’s obesity epidemic”, I’m really not sure what else you’re supposed to do.


Good intentions count for nothing. Clearly, they were going for a hip new campaign that would tap into the spirit of resistance and sell pop. But what they got is a travesty, probably because the director of the ad was afraid to offend anybody. How can you have a protest that doesn’t offend anybody?


They were deliberately vague. There weren’t any slogans or identifying symbols, and the protestors weren’t clearly bound by any shared association other than being young, leaving it all for the audience to fill in. That was what made it such a terrible ad. It was the worst of tone-deaf both-sides-ism open to being read in all kinds of horrible ways.

It could have been worse, though:

And Nivea, well, they did worse than even I could have imagined:


Right, their product is marketing.

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I think “tone-deaf” is a really good way to put it. This is what was bouncing around in the semi/subconscious minds of whoever wrote, directed and okayed the ad:


The writing script identifies with Kendall and perhaps with modern armchair activism in general - totally removed from what’s going on in the streets. Maybe they attended a pussy hat march and thought this is what it’s about, where much of the establishment (mayors, city council, keynote speakers from congress etc.) was part of the march. They have never been close to an event where people are shot at, tear gassed or roughed up. In a sea of white people marching with zero element of civil disobedience or real unrest, perhaps they experienced a protest where the cops seemed to be on the same page as the activists.

The ad comes off much the same as a horrible ad in the '90s amidst a swell of environmental, social justice and anti-war activism. In the ad, retro demonstrators chanted “Save the '60s.” The tagline: “Want to save something? How about a couple of bucks?”

I DO think in this case, it was about BLM. The interaction is with the police, not some CEO or politician. What speaks further to the done-deafness:

In a statement on Tuesday, Pepsi at first said the ad, which was produced by an in-house studio, “captures the spirit and actions of those people that jump in to every moment.” - NY Times

Which is to say, people who demonstrate are simply jumping in at the moment, rather than conscious participants in a well thought out strategic initiative (strategic, as the lady who refused to relinquish her bus seat).


Their ad was absolute rubbish. If they wanted to be edgy, hip, and cool, they could have done a mockumentary-style ad, with the tagline “Pepsi: taste revolution.”

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I completely agree on this. I have nothing against the actress, and I am sure it wasn’t her idea, but her inclusion was contrived and probably is what pushed it over the edge for someone.

Like I elaborated above, I am not sure that was the wrong move. Because if you did highlight a cause, you alienate the people against that cause, as well as everyone else who has a different, possibly as legitimate cause.

It seemed to me they wanted to capture the “activist” attitude in action.

Then again if you stand for everything, you stand for nothing.

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Pepsi could really have saved this ad with a director’s cut where, at the end, the cops rush in and crack some skulls.

The final image would be a moustachioed copper, slavering with rage, wailing on Kendall’s head with a buckled can leaking pepsi, mixing with her blood on the street.

Seriously. If that version popped up now, it would break the internet.


“They Live”
It… explains a lot.

The problem is that there were visuals in the ad that directly referenced - and perversely mirrored - famously photographed moments from BLM protests, so…

But even as an attempt to depict a “generic” anti-establishment protest, it’s still perverse in the same way, given police responses to such things.


This is the crux of it. When they fail at evoking the feeling that they hope will endear their product with consumers, it is painfully obvious and repulsive.