Advertising is a gamble. Companies can spend millions on an ad campaign believing it will be a success only to find that public opinion is so negative that the ad has to be pulled. This recently happened with the Pepsi commercial featuring Kendall Jenner.

In an effort to produce the least offensive advertising possible, sometimes companies will create ‘feel good’ happy inclusive commercials with a positive message that depict every possible demographic so as to not offend anyone. Then, rather than place their product at the center of attention, some universal positive social message will be promoted instead such as love, peace, and inclusion. Even so, people can still be offended.

The recent controversial Pepsi ad may have been one of the most brilliant and effective ads in history, but it was taken down because a small group of people said it was extremely offensive. Once the negative spin campaign began, others jumped on the bandwagon and viewed the ad as cynically and negatively as possible, or they simply made fun of it. Sometimes it only takes a small but very vocal resistance to cause trouble for an advertiser.

After Pepsi removed this commercial and apologized for how ‘horrible and offensive’ it was, subsequent public surveys about the ad revealed that it was actually well received among many people, making them feel more positive about Pepsi. An in-depth ad industry study showed the ad was favorably viewed across dozens of demographic groups (age, gender, ethnicity, political affiliation, etc.) with large numbers of respondents indicating neutral or highly positive response.

It’s possible that the negative public backlash was actually staged or sparked intentionally as an effort to get the ad greater attention.

The song selected by Pepsi for the ad is “Lions” by Skip Marley, a Jamaican songwriter and grandson of Bob Marley. The original music video (below) is an inescapable backdrop to the Pepsi ad, but for those unfamiliar with it, the Pepsi ad could be misinterpreted as superficial. It’s unlikely Skip Marley would sign-off on the Pepsi ad without feeling its message was appropriate and consistent with his song.

The message of the soundtrack and the change expressed at the end, where the people (all people) become united, is a transcendent and transformational message. The intention of the ad seems to be an effort to break the cycle of ‘us and them’ vilification and present a positive image of transformational change. However, it could be misinterpreted by some people if they are sufficiently cynical and jaded.

There have, in fact, been incidents of protestors giving police high-fives and showing other forms of support and also incidents of police joining with protestors. Not all the interactions between police and protestors have been negative. Presumably this is what the Pepsi commercial was based on. When you see the original music video below, it will give you a better idea of the song “Lions” and its message.

Take a look a the ad and see what you think.

View the Ad

View the controversial Pepsi commercial below.

Saturday Night Live Commentary

Below is a video from Saturday Night Live in response to the Pepsi Jenner advertisement controversy.

Entertainment News Responds

Here is one of many Entertainment News genre summaries of the controversy.

The most popular response to this video on YouTube in the comments section is by viewer Jane Danielle who states:

“As an African American I can only speak for MYSELF but I am NOT offended. Kendall wasn’t trying to be racist or make any kinds of degrading statement. she was offered an opportunity to be in a commercial that is pro-protest. in all honestly I don’t think Kendall or Pepsi meant anything I’m sure they went about it the wrong way but its an AD saying even though we all have differences, we all like Pepsi, that’s what I’m getting from the commercial. That the crowd went wild because it was PEPSI not a beverage. Its not the beverage ending the protest its the beverage that WE ALL have in common. That’s what I’m getting. I really wish people would leave Kendall and the rest of the Kardashian/Jenner squad alone. Like I said Pepsi went about this ‘united’ campaign a bit better, but also THE WORLD is in a bad place and will nit pick at ANYTHING!”

It’s Not All Hate

Below is an example of how protests are not all about hate between conflicting groups and law enforcement.

Lions by Skip Marley

Below is the original music video as posted to YouTube on 23 Feb 2017 by Skip Marley. The original music video has had about 750,000 views. The Pepsi commercial version posted to Kendall Jenner’s YouTube channel has had over 9 million views. So, the ad has given the song greater exposure than it might otherwise have had. Given the message of the original song and music video, it’s unlikely that Skip would have signed off on the Pepsi project if he felt it was offensive, and it’s unlikely Pepsi was taking social resistance lightly when they chose this song for their commercial.

“Lions” – Video with Lyrics

“Lions” – Lyrics

Some said ‘never’ but the never done come
Yeah, and took our trust
Hate’s been winning, but the lovers ain’t done
Yeah, not on my watch

Yeah, if ya took all my rights away
Yeah, if ya tellin’ me how to pray
Yeah, if ya won’t let us demonstrate
Yeah, wrong
Yeah, if ya thinking I don’t belong
Yeah, if ya hiding behind a gun
Yeah, if ya hoping we’re gonna run
Wrong

We are the lions, we are the chosen
We gonna shine out the dark
We are the movement, this generation
You better know who we are, who we are
Yeah, if I

Some said ‘fire’ when the fire was ice
No, and sold a lie
Some may buy it, I’m not paying the price
No, not in this life

Yeah, if ya took all my rights away
Yeah, if ya tellin’ me how to pray
Yeah, if ya won’t let us demonstrate
Yeah, you’re wrong
Yeah, if ya thinking I don’t belong
Yeah, if ya hiding behind a gun
Yeah, if ya hoping we’re gonna run
Ya wrong

We are the lions, we are the chosen
We gonna shine out the dark
We are the movement, this generation
You better know who we are, who we are

Deep down in everyone, there’s a little fire
Let me get higher, I’ll fuel the fire
Already high up, I’ll take you higher
Real conga nyah, girls admire, well
Living, we growing with pride
All of the lions, we strive
Working so hard to unite
United, we tired of lies, tired of lies, whoa ah ooh

We are the lions, we are the chosen
We gonna shine out the dark
We are the movement, this generation
You better know who we are
We are the lions, we are the chosen
We gonna shine out the dark
We are the movement, this generation
You better know who we are

Yeah, you know that some said ‘never’ but the never done come
We gonna shine out the dark
Oh, they know that hate’s been winning, but the lovers ain’t done
You better know who we are, who we are
Yeah, if I

Written by – Ilya, Savan Harish Kotecha, Skip Marley • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc