Dear Pepsi, That Ad was a Gold in the Fail Olympics
I gotta say that sometimes, I’m impressed by how people fail so spectacularly. Pepsi is the latest inductee into the FAIL Hall of Fame. I don’t think we’ve fully forgiven them since they set Michael Jackson’s hair on fire back in 1984. We just knew they didn’t curl allaway over. And now, they’ve taken their proclivity to hustling backwards to new levels.
Pepsi released their latest ad and showed what it looks like when upper management lacks sensitivity, has no checks and balances, and no person of color who has a voice in the C-suite. It is what happens when peak caucasity is at the wheel.
What happens in the commercial that has everyone riled up? Well, you can watch it below. OR you can just read my description of it.
Edit: Soooo the video of the ad isn’t playing because Pepsi took the ad off their YouTube. Since odds are, they’ll be making people pull copies off YouTube and I don’t feel like chasing around videos, Google the ad yourself if you wanna see it.
Because they need to be deep, there’s an Asian dude playing a cello to kick it off as a crowd holding basic ass protest signs that say peace, love and “join the conversation” walk through the streets of a big city smiling. Because nothing says “we need a revolution” like a scene out of Coachella.
A Muslim woman artist paints while elsewhere, blonde Kendall Jenner takes pictures while giving blank stares. Asian Cello guy stops his music to drink a Pepsi as the crowd moves in the streets below him. And then Muslim woman is frustrated with her art and throws a tantrum, scattering it to the floor. She hears the jolly ass crowd and grabs her camera to join them.
Coachella crowd is joined by random Black guys who are breakdancing, and it’s just a pordee in the streets. AN ORGANIC PORDEE, y’all!! Grassroots party, if you will. All this good times and revolutioning is giving Kendall FOMO (fear of missing out). She too, wants to throw up random peace signs with her fingers, when cello guy gives her a “come through” head nod. Kendall sheds her costume, in the form of a blonde wig to reveal her true brunette self.
2 Trans women and 2 Black guys with a white girl in the middle of them (GET OUT) giving the peace sign are shown. BECAUSE UNITY. LOVE. PEACE. Kendall walks through all of them, and grabs a Pepsi from a cooler. She proudly walks through the crowd in a confusing denim patchwork #alphet, while dapping up a Black dude with cornrows. Muslim woman (remember her?) is capturing it all on her camera. This is just can’t miss. The revolution must be captured by a Muslim woman in a hijab otherwise it’s not real.
Kendall has made it to the promised land. She’s in front of the line of police men who are facing the Coachella crowd. She hands one a Pepsi. The music stops as Blue Life opens the can and takes a sip. Once he does that, the crowd goes nuts, fist-pumping, for having witnessed the end of racism and injustice.
Muslim woman hugs Black cornrowed man, as the cop who drank the Pepsi gives a nod of approval to his buddy. Kendall celebrates, because she saved Gotham City from the Joker. Coachella crowd, with Black cornrows, Muslim woman, cello guy and other tokens are in the front of a line, with Kendall in the middle. They’re walking to go to Chipotle (I assume), as the words “LIVE BOLDER. LIVE LOUDER. LIVE FOR NOW” end the commercial.
I got some things to say to Pepsi. So, my sternly-worded letter is below.
On the 49th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., y’all decided to drop an ad that features a protest where a Kardashian hands a can of Pepsi to a cop to establish common ground.
Read that slowly. And take in how everything about it is wrong. EVERYTHING about it was stupid.
This commercial was 2 minutes and 39 seconds of “OMG STAHP” because everything about it was cringe-worthy. First, was the pandering to people’s calls for media and commercials to reflect the world as it is. This ad made sure to tick off every box in diversity bingo. Muslim! Trans! Black! Asian! Woman! Y’all must have thought that once you did that, everything else didn’t matter. Know that the presence of marginalized people makes no difference if they’re being tokenized, and that’s what happened here. It was shoved down our throats with no deeper meaning attached to any of them.
Furthermore, the idea of protest being one giant party. People just showing their gums and teeth as if they’re at a festival that happens to just take place in the streets. That reduction of what real protest looks like is insulting. It trivializes the real danger people are in when they take to the streets, and put their bodies on the line in the name of fighting for justice. Basically, it Kardashians the Movement, taking all the depth from the work, and turning it into some celebration for hipsters who just want to hold signs.
Which then takes me to the fact that the white knight in shining denim who saves the day is Kendall Jenner. You want to talk about the epitome of white privilege and the flourishing of white mediocrity? Just say the word: Kardashian. And in true Kardashian form, the commercial shows one of them in the middle of taking pictures, unaware of what’s happening around her, and then joining in when it distracts her enough. You can’t say they aren’t creature of habits, and I’m not even gon drag Yung Darth Millicent, since I don’t expect her to know better. Because: Kardashian. But talk about adding insult to injury. Pepsi, you really outdid yourselves on this. This ain’t even half-baked as much as it’s fully foolish. Especially when you realize that one frame of the ad is a direct copy of one of the most iconic pictures from the new Movement.
Sweet alabaster, 5 lb 7 oz Baby Jesus in that manger. Y’all really ran out of fucks to give about not being douchecanoes? The blatant co-opting of Black work, Black pain and Black struggle. It makes me want to run into your headquarters and break all your staples. And use all your printer ink. And douse everything with Coca-Cola as I laugh evilly.
But I guess when you decide to create an ad where a cop drinking Pepsi during a protest is your climax, you have no other choice but to commit to going full wack. Who knew that Pepsi could be a tool for peace? Who know that all the Ferguson protestors needed was to hand a thug in blue a blue can? Maybe if Trayvon Martin was carrying a Pepsi that night, George Zimmerman would have let him walk home.
I’m just wondering. In the circle jerk of meaningless buzzword-filled showdown y’all called a planning meeting, was there no one present to call bullshit? Was there no one there throwing a red flag on the shenanigans? Was there not one person who told all of you to occupy every seat in a 4 mile radius and go back to the drawing board? OR was there someone of color in the room who knew this was imbecilic but feared speaking up because they were the ONLY and they’d have no backup? Even worse, maybe there was a minority in the room who didn’t speak up for fear of the negative repercussions they’d face?
Here’s the thing, though. Even if there wasn’t a person of color in the room, someone along the lines of approval should have called time out. Marginalized people in corporations should not be only the chaperones for empathy and compassion. We should not be the only champions of sound judgment. · Even in an all white room, one of you should have enough sense to see things like this for what they are: trash. SHOULD, is the operative word, like how this commercial SHOULD NOT have happened. But you don’t have the presence of mind to see the garbage, because privilege has blinded you from seeing it. I am sure you all patted each other on the backs for a job well done on this ad. You were off base. So off base that you’ve been charged with going AWOL.
This commercial is so bad that the word “bad” is now offended. The type of bad where I hope many people get fired for it. MANY. My goodness. The level of utter disrespect is off the charts. The message is basic as fuck, just like the protest signs throughout. And this is what marketing looks like when it checks the boxes without having the depth. This ad didn’t have the range.
Pepsi, you gotta do better, because you’re outchea winning gold medals in the FAIL Olympics.
Update: Pepsi pulled the ad and issued this weak ass apology. To Kendall. Because you can’t hurt the feelings of little white girls, even though she’s a grown ass woman who got paid millions to make a mockery of a movement that is fighting for our Black ass rights to LIVE.
They just keep failing.
Have you bought my debut book I’M JUDGING YOU: The Do-Better Manual. Haven’t ordered it yet? Now’s your chance. You’ll love it. Amazon. Barnes & Nobles. iBooks. Audible (I narrated the audiobook myself). Kobo. Books-A-Million.