It’s been a couple days since Pepsi released the commercial which set the internet on fire with its blatant non-understanding of present-day racial and police issues communities of color are dealing with. Some would say it was for the appropriation of the Black Lives Matter movement by a famous, rich, young white woman but the truth is way deeper; more personal to the people it offended. Let me be up front and very clear on my opinion of the commercial before I continue on. The commercial was unnecessary, unsettling and flat out wrong on so many levels. Pepsi took Kendall Jenner of the Kardashian family social juggernaut who herself has never and will never have to face the types of oppression the commercial hinted at. And I say “hinted at” because there was not an actual scene of violence or even a sense of tension shown in the commercial. This glossing over the social injustice people of color face was insulting to people who live that fight everyday on both sides. This commercial was just as insulting to the police who are getting ravaged in the news daily. And the most insulting aspect of the commercial was the fact Pepsi portrayed their soda as the peace maker. Cue the memes.
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) April 5, 2017
We all know this is in no case even one iota close to reality. You can imagine what the reality would have been in a real life situation if the woman with the can of soda was a woman of color approaching a line of police in a truly tense, potentially violent situation. Ask the Reverend Dr. King, ask Ieshia Evans, or even ask the little kid trying to hand out water to the cops in Baltimore.
Now what I’m going to say next will probably surprise a lot of you. I will give Pepsi some credit as I understand what they pulled off. You have to think of this from their perspective. They are trying to sell soda. The commercial (though insulting to most if not almost all) straddled the line of reprehensible but didn’t cross it into the realm of “Pepsi done f*cked up now, I won’t drink Pepsi anymore, let’s boycott Pepsi.” And I’ll tell you why:
There is a saying when it comes to marketing, ‘All publicity is good publicity.’
Especially when you can control the content and offer an apology if the content you put out there is found to be offensive by the consumers of said product. You see, companies are faceless, non-individuals that don’t receive the wrath and scorn of the public the same way a public figure would have. Even Kendall Jenner herself isn’t really getting any blame for taking part in the commercial. The public is laying this right at the feet of Pepsi. What Pepsi did was kind of ingenious and very ballsy. What they did was to utilize a dart board strategy – throw it out there and see if it sticks. And if it doesn’t stick then pick the dart up off the floor (pull the commercial) and try again. I bet you the next commercial will be very friendly and PC. Let’s remember this isn’t the first time Pepsi used this strategy and had to pull a commercial, see Madonna circa 1989.
(Commercial was later pulled, read full story here)
You have to understand Pepsi’s thinking in today’s microwave society where you need to catch the immediate attention of consumers with seconds short attention.
Pepsi did what they needed to do. They got the world talking about their product without major calls or campaigns for boycotts by putting it out there for all to see, sensing the backlash they thought might come and quickly pulling the ad. But not until after it was out there long enough to get everyone talking about Pepsi. Ask yourself when was the last time Pepsi had this much publicity? When was the last time you and your friends had a conversation about Pepsi other than to say you’re going to stop drinking soda because it’s not good for you? Let’s not fool ourselves here… Pepsi won. They have come off as a little insensitive but it will not affect their bottom line. I don’t know one person who’s going to stop drinking Pepsi over this commercial. Not one.
There’s a war going on right now. Not with guns and soldiers but within American society. Society is changing. Remember this is still President 45’s America we are living in. He made it okay to be racist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, misogynistic and be public about it. Now maybe, just maybe, he was the best thing that happened to this country. Why? Well because what he did was to bring all these negative traits to the forefront, out in the open because now (unlike when it was hidden) these things can be directly addressed. People of all races, genders and socio-economic backgrounds are pushing back against these negative traits. People with varying differences are standing up and saying this isn’t right. People are fighting the stereotype and not just those directly affected by the stereotypes and negative social issues. When Pepsi puts out a commercial like it did, in reality what it is doing is using the commercial as a litmus test to see what is acceptable in American society today. Who’s winning? And who can I advertise to without getting a major push back that costs real money? Because at the end of the day they are trying to get you, the public, to buy their product. This was a way for them to take a pulse of the American public in the age of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and get real time results. Believe me, they knew this commercial might be questionable, they have very smart people over there but they ultimately decided to put it out because they knew they went up to the line, stepped on it but didn’t cross it enough.
What companies like Pepsi understand is the world is changing.
They just didn’t know where we are in the process. This country is changing, slower than a lot of people want but it is changing. If you do not believe that statement ask yourself this: Twenty years ago, if the President of the United States put out a ban on Muslims traveling to America, would there have been the outcry there was when the current President did? I believe we are changing, maybe kicking and screaming, but we are becoming a nation that truly is a melting pot and not just a bunch of different people all in one bag. Let’s not forget white people marched with Dr. King. Even though these negative traits and attributes are resurfacing and these things are at what seems like a high right now, people are no longer accepting them as the status quo and I thank Pepsi for putting out a seriously stupid commercial to show that.
Now if only Hollywood, who seems not to understand that the world is changing, would get a clue (see casting decision ala Ghost in the Shell). Why do you think the Fast and the Furious is the biggest bankable movie franchise currently? Look no further than its diverse cast. This is the New America.