Pepsi Pulls Ad After Controversy

BY Elizabeth Carlson (’17)

Pepsi is getting negative comments thrown at them because of the new spot that they released online. Adweek posted an article titled, “How Pepsi Got It So Wrong: Unpacking One of the Most Reviled Ads in Recent Memory.”

The article starts out with saying that the ad is a two-and-a-half minute piece featuring Kendall Jenner, protesters and a message of unity through Pepsi. The comments and reactions have been largely negative. Before explaining the reasons people are lashing out at the commercial, take a look for yourself.

Feminista Jones, who is a writer, social worker, and activist says in the article, “Pepsi should have consulted people who have actually been in front lines of protest these recent years.” She added, “Brands should never make light of social issues related to people’s suffering; they should, instead, focus on selling their products in ways that don’t exploit the pain and suffering of marginalized people.”

Edward Boches, a professor of advertising at Boston University said the commercial “shows no awareness of the protesters’ mindset or environment. Feels completely dishonest and contrived. Was clearly done by people who have not attended a protest or spent time on the streets and have no understanding of the pent-up anger.”

I agree with this statement, especially since I have I learned so much about brands and how they should focus on their product or service and not social issues. When brands do that they are taking a risk. We saw that in the Super Bowl ads, especially in the 84 Lumbar commercial.

When you take a risk customers can either like the result or  be completely against it. In Pepsi’s case, many people were against it. Not only did people have an issue with the portrayal of the protest, but many had an issue with Kendall Jenner.

The article also brings up Coca-Cola, one of Pepsi’s top competitors. In 1971, Coca-Cola did a famous ad called “Hilltop.” Watch below.

People are wondering why Coca-Cola did it right and Pepsi did it wrong. The answer comes from Boches, who commented that the Hilltop ad “was clearly contrived and invented as a moment. The Pepsi spot is attempting to recreate a protest march in a very unrealistic way. Two, the promise of the Coke spot was a simple sentiment and a wish.”

Boches also thinks the timing of the Pepsi ad was wrong, noting that when the Coke spot aired, people were looking for peace and love. “These are different times,” he said. “The divisiveness is real. And sharp-edged. Pepsi is dismissing the seriousness of that divide by implying that a celebrity can bridge that divide with a Pepsi? Please. Pepsi should apologize and move on.”

In offering an explanation when pulling the ad, Pepsi tweeted, “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and 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 roll-out. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”

Feature Image: Unsplash


2016-09-30-fyf-elizabeth-carlson-dsc_0057-thumbnailElizabeth is a senior graphic design major and an advertising minor. When she is not in the classroom, she is Assistant Design Editor for The Wood Word, or she is playing for the women’s soccer team at Marywood. 

One thought on “Pepsi Pulls Ad After Controversy

  1. Pingback: Digital Strategy Critique – Pepsi

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