Pepsi’s PR Nightmare: A Response to an Ad Gone Wrong

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This past week, a lot of discussion on social media has been circulating around a Pepsi ad that did not go over well with a majority of viewers. The ad featured celebrity Kendall Jenner, as she broke from her modeling job to join a riot. The ad tried to showcase people of different backgrounds, ending with Jenner handing a Pepsi to a police officer to end the riot and start a party. People took to Twitter immediately with their opinions to the “#Pepsi” ad:



Many people used the same phrase to describe this ad; “tone deaf”. This is because Pepsi tried to capitalize on numerous hot current social issues. They completely missed the mark by asserting the problems of today could be solved with a Pepsi, and it seemed like an insensitive generalization.



The advertisement hinted at issues such as Black Lives Matter or other racial tensions, but did so in a stereotypical manner without actually touching upon what really matters or making a statement of any kind. They did not take one side or the other, they seemingly just incorporated issues they assumed would grab consumers’ attention, but didn’t take a stance as to not lose customers on either side.


Sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live took the epic failure of an ad from Pepsi as a chance to create a successful skit. They made light of some reasons this ad went over so poorly with consumers. They showed just how generalized representations of different races were, and how insensitive the claim was that a simple bottle of Pepsi could solve the social problems currently happening in the country.



Some tweeters asserted that maybe Pepsi was getting more heat than it deserved. This was an overwhelming minority however, as most people immediately saw right through the flaws of the commercial spot done by in house advertisers.



Other consumers shared that they did not have the same negative feelings towards the ad for a different reason, like that they thought it was more hilariously bad than offensive. Still not the kind of reaction Pepsi was hoping to receive.

By the time the issue had settled down for the most part, some accounts analyzed just how much backlash Pepsi received. The most common and shared reaction was that this commercial was just tone deaf to the current social issues in America, and tried (and failed) to touch upon social injustice and Black Lives Matter in a way that did not connect with consumers.

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One thought on “Pepsi’s PR Nightmare: A Response to an Ad Gone Wrong

  1. I completely agree that Pepsi attempted to assert themselves into a conversation that they had no right or reason to be a part of. However, in my opinion, this type of mistake was bound to happen because of the new trend of cause-related advertising–as a means of creating positive brand sentiment & awareness and unfortunately, Pepsi was just the one to take the fall. Brands like Dove and Always put themselves in the center of the conversation about female empowerment and beauty and received ‘fame’ and recognition for doing so. Thus creating the idea that brands could stand for something else and still sell products. However, analysts point to one major difference between what dove and always did versus Pepsi–Dove & Always put themselves into a conversation their products were already a part of, where Pepsi did not. I think it will be very interesting to see if cause related ad campaigns increase or decrease in the aftermath of Pepsi.

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