"Live Bolder. Live Louder. Live for Now" may be the slogan Pepsi wanted everyone to remember from its new ad starring Kendall Jenner, but the phrases actually being bandied about include "shallow," "cringeworthy," and "tone deaf." The nearly three-minute video was posted Monday on Pepsi Global's YouTube channel and shows Jenner playing a bleach-blond model who's drawn into some kind of vague protest in which demonstrators are marching and holding up posters with peace signs and taglines like "Join the Conversation." There's a dramatic shot of Jenner ripping off her blond wig to join the march, a guy inexplicably lugging a cello around, and the triumphant finale of Jenner's character presenting a stone-faced police officer with a Pepsi, getting him to crack a smile. All of which, as Mediaite notes, is spurring a good amount of vitriol online.
Much of the backlash centers on the appropriation of Black Lives Matter-style symbols and the minimizing of issues such as oppression by having Jenner "solve" things with a can of Pepsi. It's "a perfect example of what happens when there's no black people in the room when decisions are being made," tweeted comedian Travon Free. Per CNBC, some also note Jenner handing the cop a Pepsi resembles a protest photo of mom Ieshia Evans that went viral last year. The ad gets a bit of praise from Harper's Bazaar: It notes "Lions," the background song by Bob Marley's grandson Skip Marley, is the one "redeeming" part, "an anthemic call to arms to take action and make a difference while promoting strength and togetherness." Pepsi's response, via a statement to CNNMoney: "This is a global ad that reflects people from different walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony."