Here’s why everyone is cringing at Kendall Jenner in the new Pepsi advert

The tone-deaf advert sees a member of the Kardashian clan charming the police at a protest march with a refreshing can of Pepsi

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If you woke up today to find everyone furiously angry about Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi advert and now need to know why this caffeinated beverage has broken the internet even more than a certain fellow Kardashian’s bum, you’ve come to the right place. 

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Critics of Pepsi’s advert (of which there are many) have collectively cringed at the short film, which sees Kendall abandon her photoshoot to join a generic protest march. After pulling off her blonde wig and rubbing off her lipstick (without smudging it all over her face, obvs), she knows just what to do to take control! She grabs a can of Pepsi and presents it to a policeman, who takes one sip and grins. The crowd goes wild. Peace reigns over the nation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCEm21aTh5Q

Why is the Pepsi advert so controversial?

Where to begin? Firstly, the ad has been seen as an attempt to capitalise on the Black Lives Matter movement and the Civil Rights Movement in order to sell fizzy drinks. Worse, it takes a tone-deaf approach to police brutality. If only complex issues about race and policing were so easy to solve!

Then there’s the hilariously generic, bland, non-controversial protest itself. It’s basically like the “stock photo” version of a protest march. No one is angry. It’s super corporate and colour-coordinated, and everyone is beautiful and young. Kendall doesn’t even know what the protest is ABOUT before she rips off her wig and abandons her photoshoot, but that doesn’t matter. Join the conversation!

Then there’s the (surely deliberate) parallel with a famous photo of a protester facing down riot police in Baton Rouge in 2016. Ieshia L Evans was detained by police at the protest. Pepsi’s version looks uncannily similar and even features a photographer crouching down to capture the shot.

The creative team behind the advert must also surely have been aware that this gesture has been tried before – and it never solved world peace. 

What is so extraordinary about the Pepsi ad is that whole rooms full of people must have agreed it was a good idea. Advertising creatives, Pepsi executives, top business people – everyone must have nodded along to the advert and reassured each other that audiences were going to love it. How could they not! It stars Kendall Jenner, and we all know everyone just loves the Kardashians! Perhaps there was an intern in the corner with quiet doubts, but she didn’t get a chance to open her mouth.

What is the Pepsi advert supposed to be about?

This advert, titled Jump In, showcases “moments when we decide to let go, choose to act, follow our passion and nothing holds us back.” A statement from Pepsi explains: “The creative showcases a moment of unity, and a point where multiple storylines converge in the final advert. 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.”

It’s also about, uh, the spirit of Pepsi. “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,” Jenner said in a statement. “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.”

The soundtrack for the ad has been provided by Bob Marley’s grandson Skip Marley, and it actually might be a good track over another video. Lyrics to his new song Lions include “We are the lions, we are the chosen / We gonna shine out the dark / We are the movement, this generation.”

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But the Pepsi generation? That’s another matter…