From Coke’s flower power to Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi ad – how ads co-opt protest | Media


When Nivea ran a recent Facebook ad with the supremacist-friendly tagline “White is purity”, it would have been reasonable to assume that, as far as misguided promotional campaigns go, it had cornered the market. Then Kendall Jenner stepped forward and offered a police officer a can of Pepsi.

In the two-and-a-half-minute video ad, which the soft drink corporation has now been forced to pull, the most fashionable member of the Kardashian clan is in the middle of a photoshoot when a passing protest march catches her attention. She rips off her blond wig, smudges her lipstick, casts off her couture and strides out into the crowd, surveying the scene, ascertaining, with the careful eye of a young Angela Davis or Gloria Steinem, what needs to be done to advance the cause. (The cause is not clear, as their banners, in the Pepsi colours, consist of painted love hearts, peace signs and the slogan “Join the conversation”. Perhaps they’re fighting for the rights of teenage diaries?)

Jenner approaches the line of friendly, pleasant-looking police officers and hands one a can of fizzy pop. A woman in a headscarf photographs her triumph. The cop smiles, and does not pepper-spray, beat, shoot or arrest anyone. The crowd party as if they are in the VIP enclosure at Coachella, safe in the knowledge that they have danced their way to a better world.

“Live Bolder,” says Pepsi, at the end. Bold is certainly one way of putting it. The backlash was swift, furious and witty. Charles M Blow, a columnist for the New York Times, tweeted that he would boycott Pepsi products until the brand apologised for “this blasphemy”, comparing the ad with the iconic Black Lives Matter picture, which captured nurse Ieshia Evans being…

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