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Pepsi Pulls Controversial Kendall Jenner Ad

Posted April 6, 2017

In less than 24 hours, Pepsi has chosen to pull its Pepsi Moments campaign that featured Kendall Jenner. The creative was produced by PepsiCo’s in-house content creation arm, Creators League Studio to showcases elements of the Pepsi disruptive design program that combined icons with expressive typography to capture the moments that ignite action, the release explained.

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


The 2-minute ad showed demonstrators protesting with signs that stated “join the conversation. The ad continued by Jenner, who was modeling in a silver dress, blonde wig and dark lipstick as the protest went by,  changing her clothes and joining the march.

It ended on her walking to a line of police officers and handing one of them a Pepsi while everyone cheered.

DIVERGE asked Deb Gabor, Brand Strategist and CEO of Sol Marketing, a brand strategy consultancy that has led brand strategy engagements for organizations ranging from international household names like Dell, Microsoft, and NBC Universal, to digital winners like Allrecipes, Cheezburger, HomeAway and RetailMeNot, and dozens of early-stage tech and digital media titans, to share her thoughts on the ad.  DIVERGE also spoke with Ken Wisnefski, CEO and Founder of leading digital marketing agency WebiMax.

Gabor told DIVERGE:

“If you thought the Kendall Jenner-led Pepsi ad was in poor taste, you’re not the only one. In a celebrity world in which many think “there’s no such thing as bad publicity,” this is the very example of such for both Pepsi, and unfortunately, Jenner. Pepsi and other sugary drink and snack food brands have been thrust into the spotlight because of their apparent negative impact on consumer health, and these brands are reaching to tie themselves to bigger themes and transcendent stories to bring renewed attention to their brands.

In Pepsi’s case, the practice backfired…in a big way. Pepsi’s spot depicts a whitewashed, inauthentic version of the real-life experience of protests, completely glossing over the significance of what brought people to the streets in the first place. In an environment where consumers are placing increasing value on honesty and reality in an effort to deflect the post-truths that have become commonplace, Pepsi missed an opportunity to demonstrate a grounded understanding of what’s really on consumers’ minds today.

The impact for the Pepsi brand is that many are seeing it as not only insensitive, but completely out of touch with the very consumers with whom the brand is trying to align. I’m concerned that their response — which levied an apology to Jenner for her association with the spot but failed to acknowledge the individuals who have dedicated themselves to these causes — will come across as phony at best. #sorrynotsorry.”

Ken Wisnefski, CEO and Founder of leading digital marketing agency WebiMax told DIVERGE:

“The Black Lives Matter movement symbolizes a struggle for equal rights in the African American community. This issue is extremely sensitive within the police community as well. As activists are dedicating their lives towards creating positive change in our culture, it’s insensitive to try and turn this movement into a sales pitch for a soft drink. In the big picture, there are very real issues that persist and trivializing these issues into something that can be solved with soft drink is disrespectful.

Before Pepsi pulled the advertisement down, they released a statement that read, “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.”

This is hard to fathom. They already showed a severe lack in judgment by allowing this ad to be created in the first place. To initially stand behind the advertisement is frankly crazy. Ultimately, they made the proper decision in taking the advertisement down, but there actions moving forward will have to speak volumes.”