Pepsi pulls Kendall Jenner commercial as Martin Luther King’s daughter, others criticize ad

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Pepsi pulls Kendall Jenner commercial as Martin Luther King’s daughter, others criticize ad

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JP Yim/Getty Images for Michael Kors
Kendall Jenner and Pepsi are facing criticism for a protest-themed commercial that some consider tone-deaf. (Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images for Michael Kors)

A new commercial for Pepsi-Cola starring model and reality TV personality Kendall Jenner has been pulled after getting slammed across social media with claims that it makes light of protests and is tone-deaf.

Teen Vogue reported Tuesday that the since-removed commercial, titled “Live For Now Moments Anthem,” starts with images of a protest as Jenner poses in a photo shoot wearing dark makeup and a blond wig. When she sees protesters walk by, she removes her wig, wipes of the makeup and joins the protest. “Lions” by Skip Marley plays throughout the ad and various protesters are captured in close-ups.

Jenner then grabs a can of Pepsi and hands one to a policeman in riot gear.

The shot of Jenner handing a Pepsi to a policeman is similar to a Reuters Picture of the Year-winning image of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, protester Ieshia Evans, who stands peacefully as she is arrested by police officers dressed in riot gear.

According to Teen Vogue, the ad is being accused of capitalizing on the current political and social climate and using Pepsi as a trite indicator of victory and peace when handed to police.

Some responded on Twitter with edited images of iconic moments from the civil rights movement and protests that include a can of Pepsi and criticized the ad for taking a simplistic response to issues that often lead to protests. 

Bernice King, daughter of assassinated Civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, tweeted a pointed message about the ad.

“If only Daddy would have known about the power of Pepsi,” she tweeted with an image of her father being pushed by police.

“The creative showcases a moment of unity, and a point where multiple storylines converge in the final advert,” an official PepsiCo Inc spokesperson told Teen Vogue in a statement. “It depicts various groups of people embracing a spontaneous moment, and showcasing Pepsi’s brand rallying cry to ‘Live For Now,’ in an exploration of what that truly means to live life unbounded, unfiltered and uninhibited.”

“I am thrilled to join the legendary roster of icons who have represented their generations and worked with Pepsi,” AdWeek reported Jenner said in a statement about the ad. “To me, Pepsi is more than just a beverage -- it registers as a pop culture icon and a lifestyle that shares a voice with the generation of today. The spirit of Pepsi -- living in the ‘now’ moment -- is one that I believe in. I make a conscious effort in my everyday life and travels to enjoy every experience of today.”

Following the criticism, Pepsi gave the following statement to AdWeek:

“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.”

By Wednesday, The Associated Press reported that Pepsi said in a statement it was pulling the ad:

Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.

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