Pepsi has withdrawn and apologized for a new ad campaign featuring Kendall Jenner, after the company faced a backlash for a video that co-opted the imagery of protest movements to sell soda.
The video, which Pepsi had planned to use in a global ad campaign, featured reality TV star and model Jenner coming across a scene of protest. Jenner joins the crowd, which approaches a line of police officers.
What could be a tense standoff in the real world defuses into cheers and smiles when the Keeping up with the K*rdashians star picks up a can of cola and offers it to an officer.
The audacity of co-opting the visual language of resistance movements to sell sugary beverages prompted an immediate and harsh backlash on social media.
Bernice King, the daughter of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, joined the fray on Wednesday, posting a photo of her father with the tag, “If only Daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi.” The video was released on 4 April, the 49th anniversary of King’s assassination.
Pepsi initially defended the video, which it said “reflects people from different walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony”, even as the brand became the subject of an endless stream of mocking memes.