The year was 2017 and Pepsi spent millions to produce a TV commercial that attempted to exploit a social justice movement in order to sell its soda. After quickly experiencing a consumer backlash, the brand pulled the ad the next day. PepsiCo did their best to scrub the Internet of videos of the infamous commercial, but as of this writing, the below YouTube version of the commercial remained available.
The ad, featuring reality show star Kendall Jenner showed Jenner watching the protest, then walking to one of the police officers in the midst of what appears to be a tense standoff with the crowd and offering one of the police officers a Pepsi. It’s simply tone-deaf, an example of profoundly poor decision-making by a major brand looking to exploit a serious social injustice issue. The image of Jenner handing the police officer a can of soda also mimicked and cheapened a tense, recent real-life standoff. Social media users noticed.
In a television interview, Kendall Jenner’s sister, Kim Kardashian West, stated that her sister was sorry about the ad and that she “would never mean for anyone to perceive anything in a negative way.”
One of Martin Luther King Jr’s daughters, Bernice King, weighed in with a short, yet powerful and sarcastic tweet regarding the brand’s attempt to exploit a civil rights movement.
After quickly pulling the ad, Pepsi issued a public apology.
“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are removing the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”
Kendall Jenner later used her reality show to express regret and apologize for being in the infamous Pepsi commercial.
SNL didn’t miss the opportunity to exploit Pepsi’s epically bad decision-making.