Pepsi’s Controversial Commercial Reaction: Intentional or Not?

I recently watched a reaction video on Mr&Mrs Lavigne, a channel on Youtube by Jerry and Dee Lavigne. They reacted to the Pepsi commercial, starring Kendall Jenner, which received a lot of criticism and controversy for being racist, insensitive, and not genuine. You can see the reaction video here. I hear the ad has since been removed, and Pepsi released a statement and apology letter, to both the public and Kendall Jenner. They did not mean to offend anyone, nor did they intend to put Kendall in this situation.

The ad was supposed to deliver a message of being bold and loud with Pepsi, in these very sensitive times of protest. I’ll give a general idea of the advertisement:

They begin by showing protesters marching along fighting for many different things. Okay sounds good. Next we get a scene of Kendall doing a modelling shoot not far off from where the protest is taking place. She acknowledges the march, and continues to work. Throughout the commercial we see various people, of different backgrounds and cultures, stopping what they’re doing and joining the march. We get a glimpse of Kendall again, and after someone in the crowd acknowledges her, she decides to step away from her shoot and join the crowd. Once she joins, she manages to make her way to the front line. Just as she gets there, she grabs a Pepsi and hands to one of the guards barricading the streets. This instantly makes the guard smile and everyone starts cheering and celebrating, insinuating the protest is complete and everything is good in the world. The ad ends with words on the screen saying “Live Bolder” “Live Louder” “Live for Now” and the Pepsi logo.

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Now, seeing as their channel posts content consisting of pranks and reaction videos, they’ve built this fan base in which a viewer or subscriber can pick sides; either Team Jerry or Team Dee haha. I agreed with Jerry and Dee’s reaction and the discussion they had afterwards. To my surprise though, they remained divided on the intentionality of the message Pepsi gave in the ad. Dee felt Pepsi’s intentions were good, but they didn’t execute the ending and the overall message well. She felt they did a great job acknowledging the struggles our society faces today, and doesn’t think they meant for it to be perceived in the wrong way. Jerry thought just the opposite! He felt that even though the message started out decent, the ending just made him uncomfortable, and therefore the whole thing was just bad. Bad in the sense that, he felt Pepsi purposefully tried to make light of a very serious situation, in order to sell their product, but consequently exploited the protests and issues.

Dee and Jerry, as they would in any of there videos on that channel, proceeded to ask their viewers and subscribers to pick a team. However I couldn’t pick one because I actually agreed with both of them. That’s to say that Pepsi had good and bad intentions when producing this ad.  I left a comment on their channel expressing my opinions, and wanted to post it on here as well:

Nice reaction and discussion! I’ll agree and admit that I didn’t see anything wrong with it in the beginning. But halfway through, and towards the ending, I did get uncomfortable. I go both Team Jerry and Dee in terms of intentions. I think it was unintentional in the sense that Pepsi was recognizing the movements towards unity, equality, and peace, that are happening in our society. However there was still that hint of intentionality because they HAD to use a celebrity to promote both the product and issues. Like you both said, Kendall probably cashed that check because she did the work. We don’t know if she actually stood for the beliefs and what her opinions were on the matter. She did what she had to do. But, if Kendall really felt strongly about it and knew what she was doing, she would not have done it for the money, and could’ve easily passed on the opportunity. So the message was not delivered tastefully. I can see both of them being in the wrong. It’s not just on Pepsi’s head, but Kendall’s as well. I can understand the efforts, but Pepsi needs to understand that it’s not that easy! People are continuously working hard to face these issues, and so promoting that a Pepsi and a celebrity can fix all of that is very insulting. I wonder if it would have made a difference if no celebrity was used for the endorsement. Would the message still come off as racist? Alternate ending: Kendall joins the protest and REMAINS in the crowd. No center stage for you boo boo! Then everyone whips out their Pepsi, takes some sips, and keeps on marching! The message would be that people of today are living boldly and louder, with the courage and energy they get from drinking a Pepsi, to continue moving forward and making change. With Kendall, she’ll simply be showing that she supports and stands with it, believes and values it, and knows that she doesn’t necessarily need to come forward to make everything better. How bow dat!? LOL

I can’t imagine Pespi wanting to be insensitive, but it definitely comes off that way. Like Jerry said in the video, a lot of production and preparation went into making this commercial, so someone obviously thought it was a good idea. I felt like Pepsi and Kendall Jenner were saying that it was easy to fix the problem of hate, injustice, inequality, and discrimination with a famous face and some Pepsi. Like, are we suppose to just ignore the people who are actually making the difference, step over all of them, and say hey just have a Pepsi? If you start your commercial off real, end it with more realistic outcomes or something people that can inspire others. The tag line was great and like it, so just as I mentioned in my comment, Pepsi should have used their product to tell people, keep fighting and standing up for your beliefs. Use our product to lift your spirits and keep moving. The visual execution was not the best, but they tried, and hopefully they learn from their mistakes.

I hope this sparks some thought and conversation, as it did for me. I just wanted to express my thoughts. Thanks for your time!

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2 thoughts on “Pepsi’s Controversial Commercial Reaction: Intentional or Not?

  1. the occupant says:

    I’m not entirely sure you really understand how advertising works. Pepsi wasn’t encouraging or offering support to people who choose to protest, they were just trying to exploit the values associated with protest and hoping those same values will be associated with their product.

    This attempt at appropriation was why so many were outraged.

    Like

    • creativeimaginer says:

      Hi, thank you for your comment. I was simply giving them the benefit of the doubt, since they are a big company. You want to believe, especially in this day and age, that companies are recognizing issues and using their name to support and encourage. As someone who doesn’t “really understand how advertising works”, can you blame me? I guess I may have read too deep into the meaning, and assumed Pepsi had an opinion. I can understand wanting to see the good in protesting, but as you said, it was an attempt at appropriation. I agree with you completely! I got the hint that they were exploiting protesting. It’s sad that such movements are taken advantage of, just to sell products. I’ll think about that the next time I see an ad.

      Liked by 1 person

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