Opinion: Alright, let’s talk about that Pepsi commercial


Matt Poe

Matt Poe

There’s a lot of big news transpiring this week, such as the possibility of Senate Republicans invoking the nuclear option for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch and the atrocities of reported chemical attacks happening in Syria.

While both unequivocally deserve your ears and eyeballs, let’s address a little lighter topic, like that Pepsi ad with Kendall Jenner.

I was messing around on my phone this past Tuesday night (because I am addicted to screens and live a mundane existence) when I saw Pepsi trending on Twitter. Naturally, I thought this to be some annoying ad or sponsored content circulating, and I dismissed it as such.

Wednesday morning came around and as I did my morning rounds on the interweb, I soon found that the aforementioned cola was trending because of a insensitive advertisement involving a member of the Kardashian clan.

The ad in question depicts many young people of different races and backgrounds coming together to march in the streets with signs like “Join the conversation” and others filled with various depictions of the peace sign. Meanwhile, Jenner is displaying her truly remarkable skills of standing in front of a camera for a photoshoot.

Man, does she have it rough.

She then ditches her blonde wig, grabs a Pepsi and joins in with the protesters as they gradually encounter a group of policemen barricading the street. Jenner, in a moment braver and more powerful than anything I’ve ever seen in my life, approaches one of the officers and hands him — you guessed it — a Pepsi.

A breathtaking moment of silence ensues, and the officer takes the can from her hand and drinks it.

Awesome! Yay! Social justice!

But enough of my poor visual narratives, go watch the two-minute ad. I can wait. I have all the time in the world, Clarice (Hannibal Lecter voice).

Pretty stupid ad, right? Doesn’t look like any protest I’ve ever seen. What are they even protesting?

Most of the backlash over the ad has come from Black Lives Matter groups who, along with others, have called the ad tone-deaf, insisting that it’s attempting to capitalize on many of the racially charged protests that have sparked over the past year and beyond.

And while some are mad that it’s a white person leading the ad (check social media if you don’t believe me), that’s a message that’s stupid and misses the entire point.

Some have called out Jenner for serving as the face of the ad because, well, she’s a member of the 1 percent and likely wouldn’t be found near such a protest. Are there members of the 1 percent who can be found protesting social issues?

Sure there are, look no further than Shailene Woodley when she was arrested at Standing Rock (did you know she eats clay?).

My biggest issue with this ad is Pepsi’s blatant eagerness to use these protests, many of which have been responses to minorities being unjustifiably killed by police, as a way to sell a damn can of cola. Face it Pepsi: You’ll always be second fiddle to Coke.

It’s a cheap attempt to pull at the heartstrings of young people and transform pivotal social issues, such as the right and importance of peaceful protesting in the face of police brutality, as a marketable ploy for its own sales.

And while the issue of exploiting these protesters and incidents is the most important lesson here, there’s another one that bugs the hell out of me.

I’m so damn tired of companies trying to sprinkle in social messages into their products or ads. Sure, it’s been going on for decades, and Pepsi won’t be the last, but its more evident in our 24/7 digital world.

Pepsi’s goal should not be to teach me some lesson on racial tensions in America; its goal is to sell a product, and I wish it would have the blatant honesty to just say so.

Make your product better. Sell me on why I should buy it.

It’s like when McDonald’s sales were sinking and they tried all these ways to innovate its menu with healthy options and whatnot. I want a better Big Mac, not for you to tell me you care about selling me a healthy food option.

Apple does the same thing all the time with its ads. Oh, look here! Let me tug at those heartstrings with some dramatic commercial so you shell out $700 for the new iPhone.

I’m all for diversity in ads and commercials, and I’m all for companies adding in a way for you to buy a product while also donating to some cause, like Taco Bell’s scholarship commercials from this past year.

That didn’t happen with this Pepsi ad. At the end of the day, it’s just another stupid ad among the hundreds we come across on a daily basis. We’ll detest it until another one comes along. I’m just glad Kendall is still getting paid gigs; I was worried she wouldn’t be able to afford her next meal.

Lastly, ditch the soda so you don’t end up like John Daly and drink water instead. Take it from a guy who’s in ridiculously good shape.

Matt Poe is a columnist, contact him at [email protected].