CultureLetter

Dear Pepsi, That Ad was a Gold in the Fail Olympics

I gotta say that sometimes, I’m impressed by how people fail so spectacularly. Pepsi is the latest inductee into the FAIL Hall of Fame. I don’t think we’ve fully forgiven them since they set Michael Jackson’s hair on fire back in 1984. We just knew they didn’t curl allaway over. And now, they’ve taken their proclivity to hustling backwards to new levels.

Pepsi released their latest ad and showed what it looks like when upper management lacks sensitivity, has no checks and balances, and no person of color who has a voice in the C-suite. It is what happens when peak caucasity is at the wheel.

What happens in the commercial that has everyone riled up? Well, you can watch it below. OR you can just read my description of it.

Edit: Soooo the video of the ad isn’t playing because Pepsi took the ad off their YouTube. Since odds are, they’ll be making people pull copies off YouTube and I don’t feel like chasing around videos, Google the ad yourself if you wanna see it.

Because they need to be deep, there’s an Asian dude playing a cello to kick it off as a crowd holding basic ass protest signs that say peace, love and “join the conversation” walk through the streets of a big city smiling. Because nothing says “we need a revolution” like a scene out of Coachella.

A Muslim woman artist paints while elsewhere, blonde Kendall Jenner takes pictures while giving blank stares. Asian Cello guy stops his music to drink a Pepsi as the crowd moves in the streets below him. And then Muslim woman is frustrated with her art and throws a tantrum, scattering it to the floor. She hears the jolly ass crowd and grabs her camera to join them.

Coachella crowd is joined by random Black guys who are breakdancing, and it’s just a pordee in the streets. AN ORGANIC PORDEE, y’all!! Grassroots party, if you will. All this good times and revolutioning is giving Kendall FOMO (fear of missing out). She too, wants to throw up random peace signs with her fingers, when cello guy gives her a “come through” head nod. Kendall sheds her costume, in the form of a blonde wig to reveal her true brunette self.

Kendall Jenner Remove Wig

BECAUSE THE REVOLUTION DOES NOT ACCEPT HAIR DYE. Only authenticity! Also, hold my wig, Black lady!

2 Trans women and 2 Black guys with a white girl in the middle of them (GET OUT) giving the peace sign are shown. BECAUSE UNITY. LOVE. PEACE. Kendall walks through all of them, and grabs a Pepsi from a cooler. She proudly walks through the crowd in a confusing denim patchwork #alphet, while dapping up a Black dude with cornrows. Muslim woman (remember her?) is capturing it all on her camera. This is just can’t miss. The revolution must be captured by a Muslim woman in a hijab otherwise it’s not real.

Kendall has made it to the promised land. She’s in front of the line of police men who are facing the Coachella crowd. She hands one a Pepsi. The music stops as Blue Life opens the can and takes a sip. Once he does that, the crowd goes nuts, fist-pumping, for having witnessed the end of racism and injustice.

Pepsi ad Kendall

Muslim woman hugs Black cornrowed man, as the cop who drank the Pepsi gives a nod of approval to his buddy. Kendall celebrates, because she saved Gotham City from the Joker. Coachella crowd, with Black cornrows, Muslim woman, cello guy and other tokens are in the front of a line, with Kendall in the middle. They’re walking to go to Chipotle (I assume), as the words “LIVE BOLDER. LIVE LOUDER. LIVE FOR NOW” end the commercial.


I got some things to say to Pepsi. So, my sternly-worded letter is below.

Dear Pepsi,

On the 49th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., y’all decided to drop an ad that features a protest where a Kardashian hands a can of Pepsi to a cop to establish common ground.

Read that slowly. And take in how everything about it is wrong. EVERYTHING about it was stupid.

This commercial was 2 minutes and 39 seconds of “OMG STAHP” because everything about it was cringe-worthy. First, was the pandering to people’s calls for media and commercials to reflect the world as it is. This ad made sure to tick off every box in diversity bingo. Muslim! Trans! Black! Asian! Woman! Y’all must have thought that once you did that, everything else didn’t matter. Know that the presence of marginalized people makes no difference if they’re being tokenized, and that’s what happened here. It was shoved down our throats with no deeper meaning attached to any of them.

Pepsi Ad Kylie

HOLY DIVERSITY, BATMAN!! WE’VE GOT COLOR!

Furthermore, the idea of protest being one giant party. People just showing their gums and teeth as if they’re at a festival that happens to just take place in the streets. That reduction of what real protest looks like is insulting. It trivializes the real danger people are in when they take to the streets, and put their bodies on the line in the name of fighting for justice. Basically, it Kardashians the Movement, taking all the depth from the work, and turning it into some celebration for hipsters who just want to hold signs.

Which then takes me to the fact that the white knight in shining denim who saves the day is Kendall Jenner. You want to talk about the epitome of white privilege and the flourishing of white mediocrity? Just say the word: Kardashian. And in true Kardashian form, the commercial shows one of them in the middle of taking pictures, unaware of what’s happening around her, and then joining in when it distracts her enough. You can’t say they aren’t creature of habits, and I’m not even gon drag Yung Darth Millicent, since I don’t expect her to know better. Because: Kardashian. But talk about adding insult to injury. Pepsi, you really outdid yourselves on this. This ain’t even half-baked as much as it’s fully foolish. Especially when you realize that one frame of the ad is a direct copy of one of the most iconic pictures from the new Movement.

The original. Iesha Evans being queenly.

Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad 3

The counterfeit

Sweet alabaster, 5 lb 7 oz Baby Jesus in that manger. Y’all really ran out of fucks to give about not being douchecanoes? The blatant co-opting of Black work, Black pain and Black struggle. It makes me want to run into your headquarters and break all your staples. And use all your printer ink. And douse everything with Coca-Cola as I laugh evilly.

But I guess when you decide to create an ad where a cop drinking Pepsi during a protest is your climax, you have no other choice but to commit to going full wack. Who knew that Pepsi could be a tool for peace? Who know that all the Ferguson protestors needed was to hand a thug in blue a blue can? Maybe if Trayvon Martin was carrying a Pepsi that night, George Zimmerman would have let him walk home.

I’m just wondering. In the circle jerk of meaningless buzzword-filled showdown y’all called a planning meeting, was there no one present to call bullshit? Was there no one there throwing a red flag on the shenanigans? Was there not one person who told all of you to occupy every seat in a 4 mile radius and go back to the drawing board? OR was there someone of color in the room who knew this was imbecilic but feared speaking up because they were the ONLY and they’d have no backup? Even worse, maybe there was a minority in the room who didn’t speak up for fear of the negative repercussions they’d face?

Here’s the thing, though. Even if there wasn’t a person of color in the room, someone along the lines of approval should have called time out. Marginalized people in corporations should not be only the chaperones for empathy and compassion. We should not be the only champions of sound judgment. ·      Even in an all white room, one of you should have enough sense to see things like this for what they are: trash. SHOULD, is the operative word, like how this commercial SHOULD NOT have happened. But you don’t have the presence of mind to see the garbage, because privilege has blinded you from seeing it. I am sure you all patted each other on the backs for a job well done on this ad. You were off base. So off base that you’ve been charged with going AWOL.

This commercial is so bad that the word “bad” is now offended. The type of bad where I hope many people get fired for it. MANY. My goodness. The level of utter disrespect is off the charts. The message is basic as fuck, just like the protest signs throughout. And this is what marketing looks like when it checks the boxes without having the depth. This ad didn’t have the range.

Pepsi, you gotta do better, because you’re outchea winning gold medals in the FAIL Olympics.

Update: Pepsi pulled the ad and issued this weak ass apology. To Kendall. Because you can’t hurt the feelings of little white girls, even though she’s a grown ass woman who got paid millions to make a mockery of a movement that is fighting for our Black ass rights to LIVE.

They just keep failing.


Have you bought my debut book I’M JUDGING YOU: The Do-Better Manual. Haven’t ordered it yet? Now’s your chance. You’ll love it. Amazon. Barnes & Nobles. iBooks. Audible (I narrated the audiobook myself). Kobo. Books-A-Million.

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57 Comments

  1. yasmara
    April 5, 2017 at 12:06 pm — Reply

    Pepsi’s CEO is a woman of color. She should have known better.

    • kerisha
      April 5, 2017 at 12:32 pm — Reply

      yeah I was about to say this, an Indian woman I believe, but you know they trying hard to be closer to whiteness so…

    • 11of13
      April 5, 2017 at 12:33 pm — Reply

      Then she should have the decency to fire herself!

    • Bekabran
      April 5, 2017 at 12:57 pm — Reply

      You know they have a marketing division that signs off on everything, she probably never even saw it.

      • ringerroses
        April 5, 2017 at 1:31 pm — Reply

        well how about Deborah Rosado Shaw
        Senior Vice President, Chief Global Diversity and Engagement Officer

        • Zil N
          April 13, 2017 at 9:17 am — Reply

          That role usually handles internal diversity and engagement. They don’t get final sign off on ads. Usually an ad agency does the storyboard and the marketing team signs off on it.

    • Nichole
      April 5, 2017 at 5:10 pm — Reply

      I’m sure she wasn’t clued into the commercial since it was through their beverage division. That being said, because their CEO is a woman AND a visible minority, they should have known better. Another reason it is important for us to not only be in the room but also have a seat at the table with power.

    • GeeGee
      April 5, 2017 at 8:25 pm — Reply

      She supports 45 so there’s that.

      • Let porter
        April 6, 2017 at 9:02 am — Reply

        Actually she was an active supporter and campaigner for Hillary. But she did agree to be part of 45’s business advisory panel.

    • NiHi
      April 6, 2017 at 12:17 am — Reply

      She didn’t become CEO of Pepsi by “knowing better.” wink, wink

    • The Truth
      April 6, 2017 at 12:20 am — Reply

      Yeah, she should have known that the crazy race baiting BLM thugs wouldn’t let her try to bridge any racial divides. They want nothing more than white people to die and give them the money they have earned. Give me a break. You know what, this is America kids. Things are going to offend you but that doesn’t mean it was intentional.

    • Ashely
      April 6, 2017 at 1:20 am — Reply

      I have to disagree. As someone said, they have a marketing department who can do whatever they want without CEO approval. It is just like managers who can hire of fire people from a company without approval from the CEO of the company

    • Trudy
      April 10, 2017 at 6:27 pm — Reply

      When you said Pepsi’s CEO was a woman of color, nobody had to tell me she was Indian. I just KNEW.

  2. Simone
    April 5, 2017 at 12:15 pm — Reply
  3. Whitney
    April 5, 2017 at 12:16 pm — Reply

    Congratulations Pepsi, you’ve become an SNL skit brought to life in the worst way: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imUigBNF-TE

    • Shellene
      April 5, 2017 at 1:31 pm — Reply

      YES!!! That is EXACTLY what I thought of when I saw this mess.

    • Choc
      April 5, 2017 at 7:42 pm — Reply

      OMG! Nailed it!

  4. Bridge
    April 5, 2017 at 12:33 pm — Reply

    I WISH this was a fail but to me it looks more like a win for all lives matter/ blue lives matter/ trumps America. Those people will support this brand. Their CEO is on Trumps Economic advisory council.

  5. Dee
    April 5, 2017 at 12:33 pm — Reply

    OMG Whitney, I watched the SNL clip and it’s like Pepsi took all those pitch ideas and ran with it.

    • Whitney
      April 5, 2017 at 1:12 pm — Reply

      Right??? I can’t decide if no one from Pepsi watches SNL or if everyone at Pepsi saw that skit and said, “hey, now there’s an idea…”

  6. Laurie
    April 5, 2017 at 1:00 pm — Reply

    Yes, everything you said here. I couldn’t vocalize it this morning when I first saw the ad. I just kind of bleated at the screen.

    The stupidity. I can’t even get my head around it. The number of people that could have brought any of this up at any time and it is all SUPER OBVIOUS!

    I love your letter pretty hard. Let me know if you need me to go read it out loud in Pepsi’s conference room. It would be a delight.

  7. Tree
    April 5, 2017 at 1:04 pm — Reply

    Soooo black women are only good for holding wigs?

    • Lisa
      April 5, 2017 at 3:48 pm — Reply

      The look on that lady’s face was ALL of us. “Da fuq?”

    • April 5, 2017 at 7:26 pm — Reply

      Exaaaaactly what I was thinking. 😒

  8. Iris
    April 5, 2017 at 1:05 pm — Reply

    I just received a news alert that thy have pulled the ad all together, not just on YouTube. I guess the backlash shamed them into hiding their bad act. Too late.

  9. eillim
    April 5, 2017 at 1:06 pm — Reply

    When the C-suite peeps at Pepsi don’t watch black-ish.

    • Courtney
      April 6, 2017 at 12:04 pm — Reply

      That is exactly what I thought. 🙂

  10. Nikki
    April 5, 2017 at 1:08 pm — Reply

    Clearly the Pepsi ad execs, didn’t see the latest episode of Black-ish.

  11. Andrea
    April 5, 2017 at 1:32 pm — Reply

    As someone who worked in advertising I can say with 100% certainty that there is no one within the realms of reason who looked at that and saw FAIL. You know what they saw?
    Muslim? Check.
    Black? Check.
    Undetermined clearly ethnic person? Check.
    LGBTQ? Check. (They weren’t going to delve deeper than that.)
    KENDALL JENNER. And I bet you that the highers-up SWEAR that she is “of ethnic descent.”
    99% of the people that sign off on those ads are white men who THINK they’re progressive. They would read this piece and be all…”but I don’t understand why this is bad?” And you could spend 2957290752076207 years explaining it to them and then die of frustration.

    • The Truth
      April 6, 2017 at 12:27 am — Reply

      Just because you think it’s bad doesn’t mean that other intelligent and reasonable people don’t think it’s bad. Is your opinion worth more than theirs? Are they racist because they don’t agree? The left and BLM are the true fascists.

      Take some direction from Morgan Freeman….you’ll never end racism by bringing it up all the time. Stop with the black, white, asian, hispanic labels. It’s just people morons! And just because someone is of a different skin color than you doesn’t mean they are racist. No white person alive today is responsible for slavery or should pay you anything for it. You have all the chances that I’ve had, and more with affirmative action. But that doesn’t matter to BLM thugs or snowflake libs who can’t use logic because their feelings get in the way.

  12. shoshana
    April 5, 2017 at 1:40 pm — Reply

    the image of you joyously rampaging at pepsi hq is giving me such joy.

  13. Lauren Jiles Johnson
    April 5, 2017 at 1:41 pm — Reply

    You can still find the ad if you google it. I just watched it linked to a NY Times article.

  14. notconvincedgranny
    April 5, 2017 at 1:58 pm — Reply

    I’m officially old. I viewed it as an attempt to ripoff of Coke’s “teach the world to sing” campaign, especially since this is the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love and the 60s protests. Just another lame attempt at relevance that didn’t resonate.

    • julah
      April 5, 2017 at 7:43 pm — Reply

      At least Coke had a catchy song. *CRAP* now its going to be stuck in my head *sigh*

    • pdarden
      April 6, 2017 at 9:59 pm — Reply

      that’s exactly what i saw ….

  15. malingose
    April 5, 2017 at 2:27 pm — Reply

    Pepsi have pulled this ad completely. Not just on YouTube. It should never have seen the light of day. What bothers me about this ad is it’s so MEANINGLESS!! It diluted and made light of all meaningful protest. Shame on Pepsi.

  16. April 5, 2017 at 2:36 pm — Reply

    Pepsi earned that dragging, and yours is a MASTERPIECE.

  17. Joy
    April 5, 2017 at 2:45 pm — Reply

    That commercial makes me want a Coke and a smile.

  18. Pepper Potts
    April 5, 2017 at 2:53 pm — Reply

    Don’t forget to STEAL THE TONER!!!

    • SW
      April 6, 2017 at 1:00 pm — Reply

      Dear God I was thinking that the entire time!! That’s the most expensive stuff!

  19. Arie
    April 5, 2017 at 3:12 pm — Reply

    “Here police officer. This refreshing carbonated beverage will make you forget all of your ingrained biases and help you not to perform acts of injustice while you carry out your oath to protect and serve. Tee-Hee.” There were many opportunities to make this disaster, not such a cluster****. For one, they could have just stopped with the protest street party of minority tokens. “Join the Conversation” I’ll join the conversation, alright…I don’t blame the Kendall for making her money. I blame Pepsi. 100%. I blame Pepsi for their insensitivity, for their appropriation, for their lack of insight and for their lack of attempt and effort to truly understand why citizens of this country have been protesting and crying out with fresh abandon.

  20. Tracygrrrl
    April 5, 2017 at 3:13 pm — Reply

    My back hurts from cringing so hard. Kendall Jenner is still proudly displaying the video on her YouTube channel. No words.

  21. Don
    April 5, 2017 at 3:53 pm — Reply

    Honestly, the only thing pepsi did wrong was to use the struggles and frustration of everyone represented in the video to their commercial advantage, in the form of the advert.

  22. Ifunanya
    April 5, 2017 at 4:35 pm — Reply

    I thought this was the only issue to be had in the tales of poor marketing, insensitivity, and straight up racism in today’s news but alas, the world continues to provide us with gifts. Apparently, Nivea had to pull a “White is Purity Ad”.

    Are these Marketing execs getting their degrees from Trump University? My people, wetin dey happen for here? I actually use Nivea but now….**side eyes white cream container**

    See New York Times article below:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/04/business/media/nivea-ad-online-uproar-racism.html?module=WatchingPortal&region=c-column-middle-span-region&pgType=Homepage&action=click&mediaId=thumb_square&state=standard&contentPlacement=11&version=internal&contentCollection=www.nytimes.com&contentId=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2017%2F04%2F04%2Fbusiness%2Fmedia%2Fnivea-ad-online-uproar-racism.html%3F_r%3D0&eventName=Watching-article-click&_r=1

  23. gykendall
    April 5, 2017 at 5:10 pm — Reply

    Oh, and lord help us, Sony just pulled “White is Coming?” ‪ad. Look it up. That level of tone deafness couldn’t be fixed at Juilliard.

  24. Twilla Amin
    April 5, 2017 at 5:28 pm — Reply

    I like to imagine that there was a POC in the room. When the non POC (either Becky or Ross) pitched the idea and the other non-POCs, Sage Steele and Stacey Dash excitedly supported the idea the POC was in the back rolling their eyes. Like “dis bish”. And when Becky or Ross realized that POC was not here for this crap, they got offended. “What’s not to like? Its diverse.” So then POC, who is tired of white tears and microaggressions, turned on their petty and was like “You know what, all its missing is Kendall giving the cop a Pepsi because Blue Lives Matter.” They took the bait and now POC is watching the fire while eating their popcorn and sipping a Coke.

  25. […] you do not actually understand, let me direct you to Ms. Luvvie Ajayi, who explicates how multitudinously and multifariously wrong it is. Read her […]

  26. Shantel
    April 5, 2017 at 5:46 pm — Reply

    Bubble butts, kissable lips, R&B music, Rap music, non-violent protest. As usually it’s not “OK” unless it gets the “White” stamp of approval and they pat themselves on the back for being a marketing genius. No wonder Darth Rachel thinks she Black.

  27. KIM
    April 5, 2017 at 7:39 pm — Reply

    WaHeLL … As If NoBody Would Notice.. REALLY

  28. […] I gotta say that sometimes, I'm impressed by how people fail so spectacularly. Pepsi is the latest inductee into the FAIL Hall of Fame. I don't think we've … Source link […]

  29. SIPort
    April 5, 2017 at 9:07 pm — Reply

    I don’t believe for one minute that there wasn’t a person of color – or three – in the room. I even believe that they googled the original photo on their cellphone. They told them that it wouldn’t go well. They were told that they didn’t see ‘ the big picture’. And, since said people of color had bills to pay, they were like, ok.

    They went to their cubicle, typed out an email to ‘the team’, expressing one final time their problems with the pitch, hit send, printed out a copy for ‘receipts time’, and went about their business.

    When it blew up in Pepsi’s face, they pulled out a bag of popcorn – as a snack, of course.

  30. April 6, 2017 at 1:20 am — Reply

    […] Check out Awesome Luvvie’s excellent post on this here. […]

  31. April 6, 2017 at 11:14 am — Reply

    Oh my goodness THANK YOU Luvvie! From the time I saw this, I went straight to your site because I needed you to articulate my rage, confoundment and disgust at this ad. Whew! Been waiting for this for about 48 hours.

    This ad was so embarrassing to watch! Omg. It’s like they HUNTED for every possible way to fail, offend, piss off and get themselves mocked and ticked them.
    Release on anniversary of MLK Jr’s death ✓
    Insert Kardashian/Jenner ✓
    Reference iconic BLM movement image ✓
    Trivialise the true atmosphere of recent protest movements ✓
    Insert meaningless white saviour who joined at the end ✓

    It was so bad it could have been satire. Amazing really.

  32. jamiebell
    April 7, 2017 at 11:39 am — Reply

    My petty is particularly stimulated by:
    1. The fact that Kendall really only got involved when she got a “come hither” from a cute guy. Before that she was all: meh. Like she needed the possiblity of some D to make her woke.
    2. The realisation that she took off her wig and handed it to a BLACK woman…who obviously exists just to be a wig stand….with nary a glance in her direction (“Here, hold this, Calpurnia.”)
    3. The cop looking like he is mall security…in Caracas, Venezuela. Because we all know cops are non-threatening, all the time.

  33. […] ALSO READ: Dear Pepsi, That Ad was a Gold in the Fail Olympics [Awesomely Luvvie] […]

  34. […] massive recallibration if you have a major failure. Think of the recent epic fail of the tone-deaf Pepsi commercial with Kendall Jenner. Many, many people created that ad and many believed it would be well-received. […]

  35. […] recent furor over the Pepsi commercial with Kendall Jenner is a good example. Although many people shoved to the margins by people who love Trump have reason […]

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