Cola can do a lot of things. In the summer it cools us down. In the light of health concerns it reformulates.
Well, PepsiCo has found out the hard way that there is one thing cola can’t do: tackle the complex issues of political and racial tension.
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In possibly one of the shortest lived adverts, PepsiCo’s Live for Now Moments Anthem was released on Monday, faced backlash on Tuesday, and was pulled from the internet on Wednesday.
The advert, a two and a half minute short film, saw reality star Kendall Jenner leaving a photo shoot to join a protest.
Thankfully the model had the ingenious idea of handing a cold Pepsi-Cola to a police officer on the protest line. Everyone smiles and cheers, she has managed to unite everyone.
The advert, at first look, could be seen as somewhat paint-by-numbers in its conception.
Hasn’t this all been done before?
In 1971 we saw that peace and harmony can be achieved thanks to Coca-Cola with the iconic I’d like to buy the world a Coke campaign.
Adding global superstars to adverts is nothing new. Jenner herself has been preceded by Michael Jackson and P Diddy in previous PepsiCo adverts. Surely this was a recipe for success?
Millions of people took to social media to decry how far PepsiCo have trivialised real world events to make sales. The advert was hastily taken down, with the company apologising saying that they “clearly…missed the mark”.
So why did this advert see so much backlash?
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It seems that this advert was created in a perfect storm.
Twitter, which has 313m users per month, means we can now find millions of others who agree with our point of view.
Social media has also allowed us to also see how protests play out in real time.
As a result, many people immediately saw the parallels between Jenner’s approach to the police line in the ad with the widely circulated photo of Ieshia Evans at the Black Lives Matter protest following the shooting of Alton Sterling by police last year.
We can see what Pepsi was trying to achieve, with PepsiCo declaring that this advert aimed to “project a global message of unity, peace and understanding”.
Ironically, it did seem to unite people, just it was against Pepsi.
This comes in the same week that Nivea also had to pull an advert from its Middle East Facebook page which was seen as racially insensitive.
The company used the phrase White is purity in the ad, which draws confusing and distasteful parallels with white supremacists.
The company have since retracted the advert and apologised, claiming that “diversity and equal opportunity are crucial values of Nivea”.
In 2017, it is often assumed that consumers are more aware of social issues than ever before.
It seems like this needs to be communicated to the advertising teams of these multinational companies who need to be taken to task for their insensitive adverts.