Where the Pepsi commerical ‘Missed its Mark’
Remember the picture of the African American female standing calm and defiant as she was rushed by riot-gear-wearing law enforcement? Since its capturing in the summer of 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the contrast of emotions that this image presents has continued to leave its viewers awestruck. They cannot forget the tensions between the people and the police that the image easily portrays. This presentation alone makes the image itself unforgettable.
Because of their recent actions, it is obvious that the Pepsi company, valued at almost $127 billion, has not forgotten about this iconic image either. On April 4, Pepsi released a new commercial that highlighted the political divides of the American people, insinuated that Pepsi products could resolve all social problems, and parodized the infamous photograph of the young Baton Rouge woman standing respectfully tall against the police.
The commercial begins by shuffling through a compilation of videos featuring a street protest, a Kendall Jenner photo-shoot, and background characters drinking Pepsi products. When the protest catches Jenner’s attention, she grabs a Pepsi, makes her way to the front the crowd, and looks over the line of stern-looking police officers before handing one a Pepsi drink.
This small interaction between Jenner and the officer is where the entire commercial shifts, changing from a drawn out skit where people of all colors and backgrounds are bonding over the joint protest for peace and their love for Pepsi.
The entire line of officers loosen their hard glares towards the crowd. The one officer drinks his Pepsi. The crowd of protesters bursts into cheering (over the officer drinking a soda?) and boom! All social issues and protesting for peace within the community is resolved. It was Pepsi. Pepsi has solved all societal issues by connecting all people over a common denominator.
Unlike, this commercial that displays all problems ending with a sugary soft-drink, the image of the real life Baton Rouge woman was more personal.
The image was taken just days after the murder of Alton Sterling by local law enforcement outside of a Baton Rouge convenience store. Sterling’s death sparked public outrage, leading up to protests that went violent and resulting in citizens being arrested. But despite all of the chaos, Ieshia Evans, the woman identified in the photograph, had the courage to stand firmly and without a threat to law enforcement with more authority that the ones who had murdered her fellow citizen only days before.
Evans’s actions were heroic and led to an iconic image that no viewer would ever want to forget. Many feel that the two-and-a-half minute long Pepsi commercial was a mockery of a real-life dilemma that ignited nationwide uproar.
Among the most outraged by this commercial was Bernice King, the youngest child of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. A social media post from Bernice King included a 1960’s photograph of MLK Jr. disputing with an officer who has his hands on King’s chest as if to say “back down”. Bernice King accompanied the image with the statement: “If only Daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi.”
Hopefully, in the future all commercials will be screened for insensitivity.