American multinational food, snack and beverage corporation PepsiCo has withdrawn a commercial with reality TV star and fashion model Kendall Jenner after being mocked on social media and by civil rights activists. The ad showed Jenner throwing off the chains of the modeling industry by leaving a photoshoot to join a protest march. When the crowd approaches a line of police officers, Jenner goes to a young police man and offers him a Pepsi. The image is a clear reference to the iconic photograph of a young black woman who stood tall in the face of heavily armored riot police during protests following the fatal shooting of a 37-year-old black man by white police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 2016.
After the release on internet, the video got more than 7 million views on YouTube within the first 5 days with five times as many downvotes as upvotes. Critics argue that Pepsi is using genuine protest imagery in order to peddle soda and trivializing serious matters in this context.
Pepsi, that had planned to use the video in a global ad campaign, immediately withdraw the video after the strong reactions and apologized for it. “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark and apologize,” Pepsi said in a statement. “We did not intend to make light of any serious issue.”