Popular soda company, Pepsi has found itself in a pickle after launching on April 4 their new, highly anticipated advertisement featuring Kendall Jenner, the second youngest sister from the Kardashian-Jenner clan.
As the ad begins, Jenner is seen in a mid-photoshoot wearing a blonde wig when she suddenly decides to throw her wig aside and join a protest. After sharing some nods, glances and fist bumps with the protestors, the star apparently manages to bring both protestors and police together by handing an officer a Pepsi.
Painting an image of all those protests that have taken place these past couple of months such as women’s marches, Black Lives Matter, anti-Trump demonstrations and so on, the ad conveys the message that the events would have been much more effective if the protestors brought some soda!
According to Pepsi, it seems, violence and police brutality can be avoided if we simply offered police a can of Pepsi.
Not only was the message of the campaign absolutely gross, but Pepsi chose to feature a white, blonde, affluent kid born into the celebrity lifestyle to play a person who is representing struggle and civil unrest. An abuse of power of its own.
The two minute video quickly went viral and broke the internet.
Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. blasted the tone-deaf commercial with just one powerful tweet.
“If only Daddy would have known about the power of Pepsi,” she tweeted. King paired the message with a black and white photo of a police officer with his hand on her father’s chest mid protest.
After less than 24 hours of receiving major backlash, Pepsi decided to remove the commercial.
“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are removing the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position,” read the statement that Pepsi released on Twitter.
This statement itself created the next wave of controversy for the company, as many began to question why Pepsi was apologizing to, and infantilizing, Jenner.
A source close to Jenner revealed in an interview with People magazine that Jenner is not happy about the controversy and is laying low until things calm down.
“She has been very upset. She feels terrible. She loves being a model. To get a Pepsi gig was a big deal. She was very excited. She never expected it to receive such backlash. She hopes people understand that she wasn’t involved in the creative process,” said the source.
First things first: Jenner is not a child. She is grown adult. A 21-year-old woman who has a net worth of US$10-million. According to Forbes, Jenner is one of the world’s highest paid models, having walked for high fashion designers in the New York, Paris and Milan fashion weeks along with the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Besides her modelling, she is the co-owner of The Kendall and Kyle Collection, a clothing line created with her younger sister, Kylie Jenner.
Jenner is also the brand ambassador for cosmetic giant Estee Lauder and The Estee Edit, as well as owner of a $6.5 million mansion. And let’s not forget about her family’s reality show that helped create the Kardashian-Jenner clan.
So why is it okay for Pepsi and others to say that 21-year-old Jenner is merely a child and cannot be blamed for taking part of the campaign?
After all, Mike Brown was 18-years-old when he was fatally shot six times for allegedly pushing an officer.
And Trayvon Martin was just 17-years-old when he was shot dead by George Zimmerman.
And how about 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was also shot to death for playing with a toy gun on a playground.
Why is it that all three have been viewed as adults yet multi-millionaire Jenner is being considered a child?
There is no need infantilize her, especially because she was not blind-sided.
Jenner was not forced into the gig.
She chose to be part of the commercial despite being informed about the concept of the campaign. She did it out of free will and in fact, believed that she was making the right move as her source previously stated that “she never expected it to receive such backlash.”
Susan Akens, an entertainment law professor at the UCLA School of Law told the Washington Post that stars often demand review rights prior to signing a contract as this protects them from unflattering edits.
“What level of creative control is along the line of the clout of the talent. All talent makes the decision of what they want to be in,” said Akens.
She went on to say that Pepsi issued the apology either from a public relations standpoint or because Jenner’s team demanded the apology to maintain their relationship.
Jenner’s lack of judgement is not only inexcusable but shows her small-mindedness as she truly thought it was an honour to be part of a campaign which had the audacity to co-opt the visual language of resistance movements to sell sugary beverages.