Pepsi, you’re a joke. Now stick to your day job.
6th April 2017
Words by Laura La Rosa
We’re shaking our heads in utter disbelief this morning, that yet again, another large corporate with a monumental advertising budget can get it so excruciatingly wrong.
In the face of an era where activism is being commercialised by large capitalists (the irony is not lost on us, btw), Pepsi - like many other foolishly gung-ho organisations before it - have attempted to leverage a long history of hardship endured by minority groups in order to push their product, and in the process have embarrassed themselves and offended on a mass scale. That said, “embarrassed themselves” is likely a gross understatement, for Pepsi have undermined a long history of grief and systemic racism, overshadowing and glossing over significant movements such as #BlackLivesMatter in their imagery and poorly depicted artefacts.
In case you’re yet to tune in, Pepsi have since apologised for their sensationalised train wreck of an ad whereby celebrity and supermodel Kendall Jenner is depicted as the forefront of saviours, simply by using her sexually infused charm, and gut-wrenching obliviousness to her blatant privilege. To even entertain the idea of passing a can of sugary crap to a cop as a means of somehow bridging the gap of racial profiling and police brutality, should not have gone further than a shitty meeting room table suggestion, let alone into production and before the eyes of consumers. That said, we can only speculate that this was what they were alluding to, for not only does Pepsi’s ad inflict hurt, but from a conceptual and advertising perspective, it is utter rubbish. Further, had you not been in the know about the intent of the ad to push product placement, you could be forgiven for initially thinking it was a Cotton On ad or similar – I’ve been to plenty of rallies and never before have I seen a crowd of so many unblemished, jovial people decked out in all the gear like that – I mean, come on?
Similarly in principle, the recent ‘Australia Day Lamb’ campaign - courtesy of Meat and Livestock Australia - plugged the eating of lamb, ignoring animal rights entirely, trivialising an ancient black history and its endurance in the face of both cultural and literal genocide in a way that was meant to be light (ahem), but instead, it glossed over the continual pain and systemic repercussions still imposed on a deep and complex level by Indigenous Australians today.
With that, as our headline suggests, we ask that Pepsi stick to their day job and jump off the commercial activism bandwagon. Namely, because the issues they have trivialised in attempts to capitalise, are faced by people that don’t get to opt out at 5pm; the people their careless advertising impacts don’t get to leave their hardship at the office door, high-fiving their colleagues or comrades and calling it a day. To try and encapsulate such themes in a mere TVC presents a level of absurdity that is almost comical if it weren’t so utterly damaging.
There is so much work to be done in the face of catastrophic and unresolved narratives that continue to impact black history, and it’s not something that can be reconciled over a friendly 'barbe', or a can of fizzy drink in good will. No amount of impressive camera angles or celebrity endorsements can even begin to touch the surface.
To any organisation that attempts to dabble in social consciousness, let this be a lesson. If you can't do it right, then just don't go there. Period.