Pepsi has pulled the ad that broke the internet faster than a sugar spike after a Big Gulp.
The 2 1/2 -minute commercial, released Tuesday, features “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” star Kendall Jenner and a multiracial group of young, hipster-ish protesters confronting policemen. Jenner breaks the tension by offering one of them a Pepsi. It prompted many viewers to call it tone-deaf and a pandering attempt to identify with recent protest movements such as Black Lives Matter.
The company released a statement Wednesday saying, “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark and we apologize.
“We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”
The video went viral, racking up more than 1.2 million views by Wednesday morning, and then the internet came for Pepsi.
Commenters said the image of Jenner handing a cop a soft drink was an opportunistic riff on the now famous photo of Baton Rouge, La., protester Ieshia Evans calmly confronting police last July. (Or, it could be seen as a nod to another famous photo from the ’60s when protesters put flowers in the barrels of cops’ guns.)
Moreover, there seemed to be general outrage that the message seemed is that our societal ills can be solved by a rich TV star handing out sugary drinks to law enforcement.
“Next time @pepsi do one where Kendall Jenner marches to Montgomery but the cops don’t bludgeon her bc she’s white & has a refreshing @pepsi,” tweeted New Yorker contributing writer Jia Tolentino.
Black Lives Matter protester DeRay Mckesson responded, “If I had carried Pepsi, I guess I never would have been arrested. Who knew?”
Comedian Patton Oswalt tweeted, “J. Edgar Hoover takes aim from the grassy knoll. The motorcade approaches. He fires. JFK raises a #Pepsi to his lips, blocks the bullet.”
Talk show host Stephen Colbert hopped in on the action. “This Pepsi ad is so unrealistic. Those protesters would have been Dr Pepper sprayed.”
Comedian Jim Gaffigan tweeted a scenario many feel might actually take place somewhere in a Pepsi boardroom Wednesday. “But you said you wanted social media to talk about Pepsi.” — Advertising guy to Pepsi executive before agency is fired.
It wasn’t just those who might be considered on the political left who found fault. Some on other parts of the political spectrum did as well.
Piers Morgan tweeted, “The new @pepsi ad with @KendallJenner is stupefyingly diabolical. Absurd, PC-crazed, virtue-signaling, snowflake claptrap.”
Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin tweeted, “Watching p.c. corporatism backfire is schadenfreude-licious.”
The ad is part of Pepsi’s “Live for the Moment” campaign and is an obvious shout-out to Coca-Cola’s “Kumbaya”-like “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” campaign from 1971, which was also released at a time of protest and upheaval. But that ad was generally acclaimed.
Pepsi initially responded to the reaction in a statement, saying, “This is a global ad that reflects people from different walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony, and we think that’s an important message to convey.”