The struggle towards equal rights isn’t a fad
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A Pepsi ad that was released on Tuesday starring Kendall Jenner and a few “colorful” extras has striked massive controversy and is an excellent example of what is wrong with advertising today.
The ad depicts several diverse individuals doing their respective activities when a crowd of “protesters” passes by them. The ad progresses as Jenner moves through the laughing, dancing crowd, in what that looks more like a parade than a protest, and heads to the front of a police blockage, ending the endeavor by giving an officer a Pepsi.
The ad’s biggest fault, among many, is that it does not seem to have any regard for what protests and social justice really are.
The daughter of the late Martin Luther King Jr., Bernice King, said it best when she tweeted a picture of her father being pushed back by police during a protest with the caption, “If only Daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi.”
That is what advertisers fail to understand: protests and the fight for social justice is not a trend. They are not something millennials are doing because it’s what’s popular or because they think it makes them cool.
It’s about a fight. It’s about going against what we believe is wrong and standing up for what we believe is right. It’s about the kids in Ferguson getting pepper-sprayed, and people camping out against the Dakota Access Pipeline getting hosed down with freezing water in already freezing weather. It’s about Martin Luther King Jr. and the continual efforts of countless people who were part of the Civil Rights Movement getting beaten and jailed. It’s about the millions of people who marched miles all over the world for women. It’s about the people who fought back when immigrants were denied access to a country built by immigrants.
The fight for civil and social justice that has spanned over years and generations is all of that and more, but what it’s not is a party. What it’s not, is fun. What it’s not, is something that should be given the face of an upper-class white woman giving a soft drink to an authority figure and being credited with saving the world. Advertisers have no right to take the struggle for justice from millions of people and turn it into a profit-based movement to appeal to consumers.
The ad was eventually pulled, and Pepsi released a statement saying they apologize that their message of unity had “missed the mark.”
Hitting the mark is a lot easier when you know what it looks like, Pepsi.