Both Kendall Jenner and Pepsi have received heavy criticism after the brand’s “Live For Now Moments Anthem” commercial was released this past Tuesday. In the now-pulled ad, a myriad of millennial minorities take to the streets laughing, smiling, and throwing up “rock on” hand symbols. In case you’re confused, this isn’t a jubilant crowd shuffling into a music festival. This is, according to Pepsi, an attempt to highlight political activism. However, the company forgot to include the sense of danger, fear, and frustration that actual protestors feel while they march.
Signs that inconspicuously read “Join the Conversation” catch the eye of Kendall Jenner, whom at the time of the march is partaking in a fashion photo shoot. With the approving nod of a guitar-strapped marcher, she takes off the blonde wig she had been donning, perhaps a symbolic unveiling of societal oppression, and joins the march. She is now “woke.”
The commercial has been seen by many as trivializing the Black Lives Matter movement. Elle Hearns, a former organizer for Black Lives Matter, said the ad “plays down the sacrifices people have historically taken in utilizing protests.”
At the climax, and most criticized moment of the commercial Kendall is leading the march when suddenly she’s met with a line of police officers. She walks towards one of the officers with no evidence of fear or trepidation and hands him a can of Pepsi. The officer smiles and the crowd cheers and hugs. In this scenario Pepsi has laid out for us, it seems the goal of this march was to make a police officer happy and the secret weapon was high fructose, sugary, carbonated water.
The shot of Kendall Jenner offering the police officer the can of soda has been highly compared to the famous shot of Black Lives Matter protester Ieshia Evans’ experience with the police, pictured here.
However, in Evans case, she wasn’t trying to make peace with the armed SWAT team — she was resisting their efforts. Some have even compared the innocent soda Kendall Jenner is holding to the iced-tea can that ultimately lead to the death of Trayvon Martin.
The main problem with this commercial is that it in no way alluded to take place in an alternative universe or perhaps a more tolerant future. Instead, Pepsi thinks this acts as a representation of today’s current state of heightened awareness, political activism, and police/protest relations. Many have called the commercial “extremely tone deaf” and claims the company is trying to make a fad out of activism.
In a statement released to The Daily Beast, the company said the following:
“Pepsi was trying to project a global a message of unity, peace and understanding,” Pepsi said in a statement. “Clearly, we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”
Pepsi heard the discontent loud and clear and removed the ad earlier today.