Well, today Pepsi released a fairly wrong-headed commercial that uses Skip Marley‘s protest song “Lions” and emerging model Kendall Jenner to sell soda. The goals of capitalistic corporations and protesting human rights violations tend to be at odds with one another
First, a bit of summary: The commercial follows a bunch of Pepsi-drinking young folks as they all encounter a vague protest for peace. (While they don’t explicitly reference any currently ongoing protest movements, it’s hardly a coincidence that they chose a woman in a hijab as one of their central characters and then set it over a song about “trying to take my rights away” and “trying to tell me how to pray.”) All of the people get caught up by the protest and their love of the soft drink and end up joining the movement. It ends with Kendall Jenner leaving her photo shoot to offer a Pepsi to a cop, whose act of drinking is then celebrated by the diverse mob. That’s a tough scene to swallow given the countless acts of targeted violence against minorities by the police that spawned the Black Lives Matter movement.
Sure, Coke told everybody to “Have a Coke and a smile” but they didn’t then set that against scenes of people fighting for their rights who then realize that everything is going to be okay because they have a delicious caramel colored, sugary drink. There are plenty of inspiring ways for brands to get involved with the resistance — this is not landing as one of them.