Dr. E. Dewey Smith: 5 Things To Learn From the Pepsi Advertisement Debacle

A recent Pepsi Cola commercial featuring Kendall Jenner has come under extreme scrutiny and condemnation. The commercial in question, according to statements from Pepsi, was well-intended and designed to promote love, unity, peace and social justice. The commercial depicted Ms. Jenner walking through a crowd of “protesters” before inevitably giving a Pepsi drink to a police officer. Within seconds of the commercial’s debut, social media became a metaphorical inferno of objections, critiques, disgust and disbelief. Many notable celebrities, actors, activists and politicians formed a chorus of disdain for Pepsi’s most recent advertisement campaign. After viewing the Pepsi fiasco, I’d like to offer several things that corporations and individuals can glean from this controversy:

1) Corporations must be more intentional about diversity. Diversity should not be limited to skin color but perspective and ideology. For instance, just having a different ethnicity at the decision making table doesn’t necessarily guarantee objectivity, especially if said persons don’t have a good gauge on how varied communities will respond.

2) While Kendall Jenner is an extremely popular individual, many have questioned whether she was the best person to represent bringing peace between “protesters” and law enforcement. Was there any other celebrity with a history of “speaking truth to power”, who would have been naturally better suited for that role?

3) Why would Pepsi depict a “police officer” receiving the soda rather than a “protester” or someone representing the family of a person negatively affected by police brutality and overreach?

4) Although a significant number of unarmed black men and women have been killed by police over the past few years, the commercial presented Ms. Jenner taking off a “wig” and giving it to an African-American woman. In light of such a racially sensitive moment, many viewed that as condescending and disrespectful.

5) After the firestorm, Pepsi decided to pull the commercial and also issue an apology to Ms. Jenner. A myriad of people deemed this as another act of disrespect and insensitivity. The thought of an adult, who was in all probability compensated handsomely by Pepsi, receiving an apology instead of the focus being on offended communities was beyond comprehension for many people.

While Pepsi’s courage and intentions should be noted and regarded, obviously its strategies and approach profoundly missed the mark. This further highlights the need for ongoing conversations and collaborations between varied communities. We must be deliberate about dialogue that bridges gaps and brings people together.

SOURCE: Joy105 – E. Dewey Smith