Pepsi tried to be a social justice warrior Tuesday and learned an important lesson: Everyone hates politics in ads.
It posted an ad starring Kendall Jenner to YouTube Tuesday targeting liberals. Right off the bat, Pepsi immediately alienated anyone who isn’t liberal.
More specifically, Pepsi went after young liberal activists. It went after people who are interested in, motivated by or have romanticized “against-police-lines” protesting. That right there doesn’t appeal to liberals who don’t care much about activism.
Pepsi, an international, multi-billion-dollar company, created an ad geared toward an extremely small portion of the American public whose motivating factor for buying Pepsi is Black Lives Matter.
Unfortunately for Pepsi, those people don’t exist, because no one buys soda to protest inequality. The result? Pepsi took down the ad one day later after the company was descended upon by outraged activists.
In case you missed the ad, it depicts Kendall Jenner, who is a millionaire model famous for having a famous sister who is famous for no reason, doing a photo shoot. She notices cheerful protesters passing by on a sunny day. There’s also a guy on a roof playing a cello with dripping wet hair and an angry woman crumpling up photos. Jenner later sees both dripping-hair guy and photographer woman in the protest. She decides to join them, wipes off only the most noticeable part of her makeup, and leads the crowd until it stops in front of a wall of police officers. Jenner saunters up to a handsome officer, hands him a Pepsi, and the crowd bursts into cheers when he drinks it.
Black Lives Matter and social justice warriors nearly blew a gasket over its alleged trivialization of protesters and cultural appropriation. Anyone who has taken a cursory glance at the news knows real BLM protests aren’t nearly that organized, happy or peaceful, not that that’s the misrepresentation they were angry about. The ad was called “tone deaf” and racist because it featured a white woman leading the protest. “That’s just not the reality of our lives. That’s not what it looks like to take bold action,” a former BLM organizer said, according to The New York Times.
In reality, BLM isn’t nearly as tolerant as the ad. Black Lives Matter Philadelphia banned white people from attending an event because it’s a “black only space.” During a march in Philadelphia in July, an organizer told “white people to move to the back — make space because this is a Black Resistance March.” These people would not be happy with Kendall Jenner leading a march.
The only thing Pepsi succeeded at eliciting was an all-encompassing response of, “What the heck is this?”
SNL was quick to parody the ad. In it, a white producer, flanked by white groupies, gets a call from his sister and tells her all about how he’s creating an “homage” to “Black Lives Matter.” The ad is supposed to show how love of Pepsi can bring everyone together. His sister doesn’t seem thrilled with the idea, and he dismisses her, saying she doesn’t get it. By the end of the parody, he tries to stop filming, but it’s too late.
Pepsi shouldn’t politicize soda. If Pepsi was a small company in a hyper partisan area, targeting people so specifically might have been a slightly more intelligent decision. But it’s not, and by intentionally jumping onto a polarizing issue, Pepsi turned off anyone who doesn’t prescribe to BLM.
Take, for example, the new Rodham Rye by Republic Restoratives. It’s named after failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Republic Restoratives can get away with losing the business of anyone who doesn’t like Clinton because it never went after those people in the first place. It’s targeting a specific demographic from the get-go, not forcing politics down the throats of millions of Pepsi drinkers of all different sorts of backgrounds and beliefs.
Although gearing a whiskey toward liberals might not be the best idea. “Consumer data suggests Democrats prefer clear spirits, while Republicans like their brown liquor,” according to The Washington Post.
Maybe Pepsi went through with the ad because it thought SJWs would cast adoring eyes on it and say, “That company really gets us.”
If that’s the case, it forgot that activists generally don’t like corporations using their movements to make money.
The ad is still up on Kendall and Kylie’s YouTube channel. It has 116,000 “dislikes” compared to 23,000 “likes” as of April 9. Top comments include things like: “I wonder if there’s a deleted scene where the cops mace them all with Dr. Pepper spray,” “I love my country, but goddamn do i hate my countrys people,” and “So by Pepsi’s logic all they need to do is airdrop Pepsi over Syria.”
Let’s hope Pepsi, and any companies considering the idea, learned a lesson and steer clear of politically-charged ads from now on.