In April 2017, Pepsi ran an ad that depicted several references to police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement. Towards the end of the video, Kendall Jenner is shown handing a Pepsi can to a police officer in an effort to show the power of Pepsi in achieving solidarity. The ad was quickly met with backlash from social media users, with several feeling like the ad belittled the nationwide movement following several police shootings of African Americans.
Depicted on the right is Iesha Evans, a nurse who participated in Black Lives Matter protests in Baton Rouge. Activist DeRay McKesson states that, “This ad trivializes the urgency of the issues and it diminishes the seriousness and the gravity of why we got into the street in the first place.”
Bernice King, daughter of famous activist Martin Luther King Jr. mocked the ad tweeting, “If only Daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi”.
Pepsi apologized for the ad and ultimately pulled the controversial ad from circulation.
The company claimed the ad “features multiple lives, stories and emotional connections that show passion, joy, unbound and uninhibited moments.” They chose Kendall Jenner to star in the ad because they believe she “exemplifies owning ‘Live For Now’ moments.”
Pepsi claims this campaign was to show solidarity with current events going on throughout the nation. Public Relations staff is tasked with the responsibility to oversee campaigns and content meant to increase customer engagement with a product. However, how far is too far? Where is the line between staying current and exploiting important events/movements in order to promote a product?