It’s not easy to sell carbonated beverages in 2017. So we have to congratulate Pepsi, whose new ad may have just unseated rivals Coca-Cola when it comes to finding that Orwellian sweet spot between “having a message” and “saying nothing.”
In the two-and-a-half-minute ad, a perfectly art-directed group of young people march through the streets, holding signs with pictures of peace signs and slogans like “Join the Conversation” and “Love.” But as we all know, vague peace-sign iconography isn’t enough to effect change. You need a leader to spark a rallying cry for the revolution, like a Martin Luther King, or a Gloria Steinem or a … Kendall Jenner? Sure, that works.
Midway through the ad, revolutionary leader Kendall Jenner, clad in a blonde wig for a fancy photo shoot (signifying: not yet woke), catches the eye of a figure in the crowd. Something stirs within her. She rips off her wig, rubs off her lipstick, and joins the crowds in the streets (signifying: she’s woke now).
Police presence? No problem! When a line of attractive cops gets in the marchers’ way, Kendall Jenner simply picks the hottest one and hands him a Pepsi, and suddenly the police are all smiles.
As Elle points out, this final set piece is an image that recalls past protest imagery, like the now famous photo of Black Lives Matter protester Ieshia Evans being arrested by cops at a protest in Baton Rouge. Only, instead of an African-American woman being arrested while peacefully protesting, it’s Kendall Jenner not getting arrested for drinking Pepsi, and instead of protesting systemic racism, these people are just trying to sell you sugary beverages. Anybody else thirsty?
Update, April 5th, 11.04 a.m: In response to backlash, Pepsi released the following statement: “This is a global ad that reflects people from different walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony, and we think that’s an important message to convey.”