Pepsi Ad Leaves a Bad Taste
April 18, 2017
On April 4, Pepsi released a new ad featuring Kendall Jenner “joining the conversation” alongside fellow protesters and easing tensions with riot police by handing one of the officers a Pepsi — talk about missing the mark. By the end of the following day, Twitter was enraged by the company’s tone-deaf approach to protest culture — a response that forced Pepsi to pull their ad.
Many NYU students also found the ad distasteful. Some, like Tisch freshman Simone St. Pierre, were confused about how the idea slipped past the review process.
“I don’t know how that got through so many people, because Pepsi is a major brand,” St. Pierre said.
CAS senior Annais Lopez Sanchez agreed — she believes Pepsi could benefit by listening to more diversified voices.
“I feel like if they had reached out to actual people from different causes, they would have told them not to do it,” Sanchez said.
On April 8, “Saturday Night Live” satirized the controversy in a segment about the behind-the-scenes making of the Pepsi ad. In it, the writer-director of the commercial shares the concept with friends moments before the shoot, only to learn how out-of-touch it actually is.
“Don’t even touch it? It’d be insane to touch it! ” is one of the few feedback comments the audience hears after the writer-director explains that the ad is an homage to the Black Lives Matter protest movement.
While Sanchez doesn’t believe that the topic of protest is out-of-bounds, she did caution that it should be approached with care.
“I just think that any corporation that tries to do so treads in troubled water, and they have to be really careful about how they do it so that they’re not just pandering,” Sanchez said.
With that said, Sanchez thinks large corporations can use their influence for the better if they approach loaded topics tastefully.
“If a large corporation wants to get a good message across, that’s just being a good ally and using the power that they have for good,” Sanchez said.
Despite backlash on social media, a new poll by Morning Consult found that many viewers saw Pepsi in a more favorable light after watching the ad. Morning Consult surveyed 2,202 adults who gave real-time feedback and answered questions about the ad, Pepsi and Kendall Jenner.
According to the poll results, 44 percent of Americans said they had a more favorable view of Pepsi after watching the ad, compared to 25 percent who had a less favorable view, while 31 percent of viewers were neutral. Of the Hispanic population that gave feedback, 74 percent had a positive view, and 51 percent of the black population surveyed had the same opinion.
Kendall Jenner, on the other hand, did not get off scot-free. Only 28 percent of viewers reported that Pepsi’s ad made them look at the “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” reality star in a more favorable light and 26 percent argued that it made her less favorable.
“I feel like something about having the main character be someone who isn’t really a person of color also kind of didn’t help them at all,” Sanchez said.
There’s no telling what kind of impact Pepsi’s ad will have on future commercials, but St. Pierre suspects that major corporations will be more hesitant in tackling big messages.
“I have a feeling that everyone will be pumping the brakes a little bit more,” St. Pierre said. “They’re selling soda, so at the end of the day, they don’t have to be saving the world at the same time.”
Email Laura Rubio at [email protected]