The current political situation in the United States has left many people upset and disillusioned, with just about everybody and every brand getting political. The Women’s March back in January was a gigantic protest event that truly rocked the country, with one out of every 100 Americans taking part. During the Super Bowl, one notable Budweiser commercial told the story of founder Adolphus Busch, which explored his early years as an immigrant with a subtext critical of Trump’s harsh anti-immigrant stance. Even Pepsi has taken a stand in their most recent commercial featuring Kendall Jenner, yet this was pulled almost as quickly as it was released.
If you haven’t seen it yet, the commercial features Kendall Jenner, half-sister of Kim Kardashian, leaving behind a modeling shoot to join a vague protest march. By handing one white police officer a Pepsi can, she’s able to bring everybody together. In the background, Skip Marley’s song “Lions” plays. The song references the Lion of Judah, a symbol in Rastafarian ideology meant to save Africans and the diaspora from the colonial powers (i.e. rich white people like Kendall Jenner’s family).
One thing that’s always fascinated me about commercials is their ability to create unique worlds and events, if only for about 30 seconds to a couple minutes at most, that in the real world would never happen. This new Pepsi commercial is definitely one of those, yet it’s also kind of tone-deaf. The protests to which this commercial pays homage started out against Wall Street and the inequities of capitalism, exemplified by gigantic corporate giants (like Pepsi).
It might seem like a complete lack of self-awareness that Pepsi would try to make itself a champion of the protestors, yet at the same time this follows one of the basic tenets of advertising: go where the money goes. It follows a trend that various other big brands are going: Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Burger King and even the Fearless Girl statue set up by the State Street fund. For those who are concerned about the direction of big business and our country as a whole, such moves can seem refreshing; a way to say “we’re on your side”. But at the same time, it’s difficult to decipher whether or not they’re sincere, and whether or not these big corporations are doing the same thing they’ve always done: try and make more money, just this time with a different tone.