Pepsi mum on plans for widely mocked protest ad
NEW YORK - Pepsi is not saying whether it will continue to run an ad that is being widely criticized and mocked on social media for appearing to trivialize protests for social justice causes.
The ad shows Kendall Jenner, a member of "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" reality TV family, ripping off a blond wig and stepping away from a modeling shoot to join a crowd of smiling, young protesters. Jenner grabs a Pepsi from a bucket of ice and hands it to a police officer - prompting cheers from the protesters when the officer takes a sip.
Representatives for PepsiCo Inc. did not respond Wednesday when asked about plans for the ad going forward. In a press release Tuesday, the company had said the ad "will be seen globally across TV and digital" and that the spot featured "multiple lives, stories and emotional connections that show passion, joy, unbound and uninhibited moments."
The company stood by the ad late Tuesday despite the criticism.
"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 import message to convey," Pepsi said in a company release.
Critics say the image of Jenner handing the officer a Pepsi evoked a photo of Black Lives Matter protester Ieshia Evans approaching an officer at a demonstration in Baton Rouge last year. Yet others pointed out that the protesters were holding signs with comically innocuous messages, such as "Join the Conversation," as well as signs with heart and peace symbols.
It isn't the first time that PepsiCo has come under fire for its advertising.
In 2013, the company pulled a Mountain Dew ad after many said that it played on racial stereotypes and trivialized violence toward women. That spot showed a battered white woman being urged to identify a suspect out of lineup of black men. A goat character was in the lineup, making threatening comments that were intended to be funny. The ad was part of a series developed by rapper Tyler, The Creator.
PepsiCo apologized for that ad and pulled it from online channels. The company said it was never meant to air on TV.