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By now you’ve likely heard that Pepsi is the latest brand to be demolished on Twitter for an out of touch misstep. If you have yet to see the ad in question, “Live For Now Moments Anthem,” check it out here.

The video has been deleted from YouTube by Pepsi as of the the morning of April 5, 2017 and their website has been taken down as well. In the behind-the-scenes interview view with Kendall Jenner she shares why she “lives for now moments” – because apparently joining protests is about spontaneity.

Authenticity. Millennials crave, nay, demand it from brands.

I hate to rip this beautifully shot “short film” a new one because there was clearly a great deal of time and money put into it. Thought however, I’m not sure what thoughts led to this creation. That’s where Pepsi went wrong, a genuine interest for the demographic should have led this project. This ad is the opposite of what resonates with young outspoken Americans and instead embodies a tactless conglomerate reaching for relevancy.

There is one word that comes to mind for this ad, contrived.

Let’s break it down:

1.) The most glaring error was featuring Kendall Jenner as the star. (My apologies Kendall, I have nothing against you personally.) Kendall Jenner came to us via “reality” television, which in itself is a contrived circus. Kendall and fashion? A great pair. Kendall and social media? Two of a kind. Kendall and the cover of the September issue of Vogue? Even that received backlash. Much of her celebrity is superficial at best. Kendall is not a celebrity known for her political activism. Sure, she donned American flag pants, shared her support of Hillary Clinton and Yeezy for President. But if you ask politically active young adults what celebrities they look to for peace, hope and thoughtful direction, I doubt many would cite Jenner. This was such a stretch it is unbelievable that no one at Pepsi said “hey, wait a quick second, maybe she’s not our girl” during casting. (If you were that person, today you will walk into the office with a big grin.)

2.) They tried to include as many stereotypical beacons of the Millennial generation as possible. As if they had a checklist and said, “Hold on, hold on! We do not have a shot with a long-haired man yet.”
Young celebrity.✔️
Musicians, including a hip cello player with gauges and a beanie. ✔️
A song by Bob Marley’s son. ✔️
Diversity. ✔️
Struggling female artist wearing a headscarf. ✔️
A theme of peace, love and Live For Now™ (Pepsi’s new trademarked version of YOLO) ✔️
Long-haired men and men with top knots. ✔️
Breakdancers. ✔️
Woke political activism. (Though non-specific so that it can apply to any topic.) ✔️

3.) The star, the person building bridges of peace and hope, just happens to be in a fashion shoot along the protest route. That’s convenient.

4.) Even calling this a “short film” feels contrived. The unsubtly of Pepsi product placement throughout the spot, and as a key central figure, screams advertisement.

5.) My takeaway from the ad was “Pepsi brings peace.” By forcibly placing the product in the forefront, Pepsi overshadowed any chance of a more profound message. The caption of their YouTube video (now removed) wants us to believe this video is intended to capture a spirit of aliveness and action. A crowd roaring in exuberance when a model hands a cop a soda post-protest completely breaks that spirit.
Pepsi Global. Published on April 3, 2017. A short film about the moments when we decide to let go, choose to act, follow our passion and nothing holds us back. Capturing the spirit and actions of those people that jump in to every moment and featuring multiple lives, stories and emotional connections that show passion, joy, unbound and uninhibited moments. No matter the occasion, big or small, these are the moments that make us feel alive.

Politically this ad shines a light on the great divide happening across the country. To some people these protests mean a peaceful future, while to others they are a joke equated with top knots and the renaissance of plaid.

I have questions. So, so many questions to ask the masterminds behind the creation of this ad. I will ask just one, did anyone step up and say that utilizing a protest scene might be a bad idea?? If they did, no one listened and because of it I’m sure media contact Emily Christopher of PepsiCo Communications must be having quite a week.

To wrap it up:

Pepsi, you are a soda. You can’t fool us into thinking you’re one of us. You can try to sell us a lifestyle as most food and beverage companies do but you cannot blatantly join a movement, one that so many feel is defining a generation and history, with your shallow motives.

Does Pepsi win in the end? Is all press good press? They are the topic of conversation. I’ve just written more than 700 words on them and shared their commercial. So only the dollars spent at the store will tell.

 

I will leave you with another perspective from James A. Jefferson Jr. to chew on…

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