Pepsi debuted a controversial new ad in which Kendall Jenner ditches a photo shoot to join a cute boy at a protest and give a police officer a soda.
In the commercial, Jenner rips off a blonde wig to join a multicultural group of young people holding “protest” signs with feel-good messages like “join the conversation” and “love.”
Walking through the group, she grabs a Pepsi and hands it to a stone-faced police officer watching the protest. His face breaks into a smile and the crowd breaks into cheers.
“Live bolder. Live louder. Live for now,” the screen reads.
The commercial immediately rubbed many people the wrong way, with critics saying that Pepsi co-opted protests as a fun, trendy activity, instead of something people participate in to draw attention to social and political issues that, for some, are matters of live-or-death importance.
“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,” Pepsi said in a statement to Business Insider.
Lots of people expressed their concerns on social media:
I’m actually disgusted right now. What kind of privilege must you have to think handing a Pepsi over is something groundbreaking?
— blair waldorf. ???? (@wydaubri) April 4, 2017
So all us dark people have to do is convince a cop that the Pepsi we’re holding isn’t a gun.
— Kashana (@kashanacauley) April 4, 2017
Coke execs tonight after watching kendall’s pepsi ad pic.twitter.com/3u7Ti01bpi
— JamesMichael Nichols (@JMN) April 4, 2017
In “Elle,” Jaya Saxena said the commercial seemed to draw from a photo of a black woman being arrested at a 2016 Black Lives Matter protest.
“This scene, which invokes a now iconic photo of Black Lives Matter protester Ieshia Evans being arrested in front of police line in Baton Rouge-but instead places a white, rich, supermodel in the focus, feels particularly egregious,” Saxena wrote. “It’s as if someone saw that photo, immediately forgot about it, and then recalled something in a dream about a woman standing in front of the cops with no political implications.”
— Jaya Saxena (@jayasax) April 4, 2017
Pepsi just made the commercial of the year for Coke.
— John Fugelsang (@JohnFugelsang) April 4, 2017
EVERYONE: well at least 2017 can’t possibly get any more tone-deaf
AD EXEC: hold my pepsi pic.twitter.com/RYh4bIVKNM
— Bob Vulfov (@bobvulfov) April 4, 2017