Reality TV actress and It model Kendall Jenner released a video this week on how terrible she felt about the Pepsi ad. On the face of it, she did nothing wrong. She just happened to be the main talent chosen for the ad. But because she is also one of the most Insta-followed celebrities in the planet, and a member of one of the most high-profile families since the birth of Reality TV, there were high stakes involved.
Both the timing and the concept were horrible: the concept was a puff-ad that looks to be inspired by #BlackLivesMatter but the end product just made it out as if #BlackLivesDontMatter.
A can of Pepsi won’t solve police brutality. To trivialise it just didn’t make commercial sense. If I were part of the Pepsi team, I would say: whatever you do, don’t ever go near politics or religion. That’s just a recipe for controversy right there – a good focus group would have quashed the concept instantly.
The ad was pulled but I’m sure Kendall didn’t have to give her pay cheque back. The public backlash, however, was brutal. She said in the video that she felt stupid. And it was … stupid.
I wonder though, does Kendall have someone in her team who would have anticipated the consequences? Or did they just see “Pepsi” and the dollar signs?
The same happened with Kylie and Kendall Jenner promoting Tshirts with their image superimposed over Biggies’ face. This has complete disregard for hip hop royalty and what Biggie was to a lot of his music fans. Biggies’ family called the Kardashians over it and the product line was swiftly dropped.
Back to Pepsi and the marketing gaffe. I wonder if someone in the team thought, “Let’s put an Asian guy there, a black dude and a young woman wearing a burqa. That should cover it.”
The ad would have worked … in the 80s. It would have been novel to put together a multi-racial crowd set against the backdrop of a rally.
Today, not so much. Whoever was behind the campaign just did not read the mood of the times very well.
So that’s my preamble to the purpose of this post. To share what I would say is one of the most moving images I’ve ever come across. The image of 35-year-old nurse and mom, Iesha L. Evans. That photo of her looking so defiant in front of the riot squad was so powerful. I’m not surprised that it went viral. I’ve looked at it many times but I still get a lump in my throat each and every time I see it. Read one of the articles about her story here.
Which only exacerbates the gross insensitivity of the Pepsi ad. #BlackLivesMatter is a movement you should never, ever misappropriate. Certainly not in an ad.
Not now, not ever.
If Kendall only knew the kind of reaction the Pepsi ad would receive, would she have done it? Advertising is risky business. Sometimes it works, other times it fails. This one tanked. An ad about a can of Pepsi canned.
Maybe a few years from now people will forget. Pepsi will produce a better ad and chalk this one up to a one-off management blunder. To be fair, I know people in the marketing and advertising industry – it can happen to the best of us.
But at the same time, there will still be people like Iesha who will continue to fight for equality; who will stand up for black men unjustly treated because of the colour of their skin. She said she had to do it for her seven-year-old son. She wanted to make sure that when her son grows up, he will know that when confronted with the issue, she stood up for his rights.
I also tip my hat off to the photographer Jonathan Bachman for capturing this amazing, unforgettable image that will survive the test of time and has made its way into our history books.
Isn’t it great though that some of our best memories are now shared and stored in jpegs? Iesha’s photo now lives in the digital memory of hundreds of thousands of people, thanks to the way we process photos.
JPEG (JAY-peg) is a commonly used method of compression for digital images, particularly for those images produced by digital photography. The degree of compression can be adjusted. The term “JPEG” is an acronym for the Joint Photographic Experts Group, which created the standard.