Let’s Talk About Pepsi

Read about the PR controversy surrounding the latest Pepsi commercial with Kendall Jenner.

By: Ariana Ameli

Damage control, intense backlash, and the need for its public relations department are three things that are all on Pepsi’s mind at the current moment. If you are not one of the many individuals who have witnessed the controversial Pepsi commercial, let’s recap. The advertisement focuses in on model, Kendall Jenner, who breaks up a protest by handing a can of Pepsi to a police officer. This results in cheers from the crowd and a smile from the police officer, essentially creating the idea of peace.

Fast forward to a furious public who are calling the ad “tone deaf.” A number of civil rights groups have lashed out at Pepsi for its ignorance in creating a commercial that downplays a hot-button issue, especially one so prevalent in our current society. With the history of protests and recent headlines circulating matters that lead to mass demonstrations, it is easy to see the epic failure of Pepsi and its inability to identify why this could be a touchy subject, if not downright unacceptable.

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And while many continue to question how the idea for this advertisement went from creative pitch to air-time TV, another interesting aspect is how Kendall Jenner came to be involved with the shoot. Akin to Pepsi’s brand, Kendall Jenner’s image is on the mend since she was the main focus, the shining savior in the commercial. What’s interesting is not why nobody failed to stop this ad from being previewed (although that is undoubtedly on everybody’s mind) but who is really accountable for this?

Kendall Jenner was undeniably paid a handsome figure for starring in this commercial, as she is a high-profile figure. Therefore, the decision to remove the ad financially was sure to make some Pepsi execs grit their teeth. However, is Kendall Jenner not at fault for this image crisis as well? Does all the blame get handed to Pepsi?

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While the Pepsi company publicly apologized for “Putting Kendall Jenner in this position,” one cannot help but think that she had to have agreed as a legal adult to star in this commercial. Therefore, why is Kendall Jenner not present to take partial blame for failing to notice a lack of sensitivity in the ad’s story-line? Additionally, Jenner is not new to this business and has handled a number of powerful accounts whether in the modeling or marketing world.

SNL has already done in its job in satirizing the flop, and memes have sprung up across the internet highlighting the advertisement’s poor taste. Furthermore, some polls have been posted asking whether Kendall Jenner should apologize too. An interesting question that her PR team would be wrong not to evaluate.

The burden of accountability is dubious, but the one matter that is certain is Pepsi was able to unify the public’s reaction towards their commercial, just in the wrong way.


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