Pepsi announced Wednesday that it's pulling its new TV ad depicting reality star Kendall Jenner leaving a modeling shoot to join a protest march after criticism that it was insensitive.
The commercial, which was unveiled on Tuesday, showed Jenner yanking off a blonde wig to reveal her dark mane and wiping off her makeup before joining the protesters. She hands a can of Pepsi to one of the police officers standing guard, which makes him smile. The marchers then turn joyous.
People took to social media to say it mocked protests against police violence.
"Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize. 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," Pepsi said in a statement.
The Jenner ad, called Jump In captures the spirit and actions of those people that jump in to every moment,” the company said when it was unveiled. “[It] takes a more progressive approach to truly reflect today's generation and what living for now looks like. Kendall is the latest in an impactful line-up of global icons to work with Pepsi and she exemplifies owning ‘Live For Now’ moments.”
In addition to consumers, companies chimed in to chastise Pepsi.
"Clearly the soda and bottled-water industry will stop at nothing to sell products, even making light of harsh realities, fears and prejudices that citizens face every day," said CEO Daniel Birnbaum of SodaStream, a company that makes home water purification attachments. "Now, in addition to polluting our oceans with plastic, they're using recent protests against police brutality to sell cans of soda? I say to Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi -- you're better than this. You know it and the world knows it."
Pepsi could not be reached for further comment.
“Successful marketing campaigns have the power to add millions to the value of a brand. However, ill-conceived campaigns equally have the power to significantly erode hard-earned brand equity,” said David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance, a brand valuation and strategy consultancy. Pepsi, which already had a difficult 2016 with its brand value dropping by 4% to $18.3 billion dollars, could face further losses in the value and strength of its brand as a result of this ad. Companies are right to push the boundaries and take risks when it comes to marketing products, but this proves that fallout from a single video can have a very damaging effect.”
Earlier this week, the skincare company Nivea apologized for an ad for Invisible For Black & White deodorant, which included the line “White is purity,” and pulled the ad.
Bloomingdale’s 2015 holiday catalog suggested shoppers “Spike your best friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking,” prompting allegations that the retailer was taking a lackadaisical view of date rape.
This isn’t the first time PepsiCo has made an advertising misstep.
In 2013, it pulled a Mountain Dew ad that was accused of taking a light-hearted approach to the serious topics of racism and violence against women. An ad featured a battered white woman looking at a police line-up, consisting of five African-American men and a goat, who talks about not snitching.
Pepsi stock was $112.26, up 17 cents or 0.16% in mid-afternoon trading.
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