Pepsi "Live for now moments" (2017) 2:40 (USA)

Pepsi, enlists Kendall Jenner in what can only be described as the central casting music video for the social justice ethos, the resistance movement, and most likely, something-something anti-Trump. Except of course, Pepsi is Pepsi so its hedging its middle-of-the-road bets by hosting a march for peace. There's also a pissed off photographer in a hijab. And Kendall Jenner? Well she's wearing a blonde wig and then rips it off and hands a Pepsi to a cop, I guess kind of like that famous photo at Kent State where the hippie placed a flower in the rifle of a national guard member. Or nods to Black Lives Matter. In other words it's not tone deaf at all.

There's a lot of negative press around this ad. It's easy to see why. Kendall Jenner is not a great example of any sort of resistance movement. And mixing protests with Pepsi is just plain misguided. Pepsi of course has always stood for youth, and since the youth believe they're all 'woke," now it only makes sense they'd try to make something revolving around that, as opposed to say, using Britney Spears.
But the negative press is as much a part of outrage culture as it is the inevitableness of advertising responding to the demands of consumers who insist their brands be more politically attuned. Or rather, not consumers, but people on twitter who spend their days being outraged.

It was only a few short years ago where Tweets demanding brands be more involved with causes and political moments du jour, no matter how polarizing they would be started popping up. So in order to sell you something, brands waded into the zeitgeist. Starbucks talked about race. And immigration. In the case of 84 Lumber's Super Bowl spot, the CEO didn't even believe in the cause but just wanted to "create conversation," which is code for capitalizing on a trend.

This is Pepsi 2017 where kids march for peace and a cop sips a Pepsi (the new symbol of harmony, apparently) and Kendall Jenner smears her makeup. You wanted woke, you got it. And it's your fault for demanding brands do this.

Update: Pepsi has decided to pull this craptacular ad. In a statement to the Wall Street Journal's reporter Jennifer Maloney.

Client: Pepsi
Agency: Creators League Studio
Song: “Lions” by Skip Marley
Brand Director: Allison Sipes

Advertising Agency: Creators League / Pepsico
Chief Marketing Officer: Kristin Patrick

Creative Direction: Pete Kasko 
 Director: Michael Bernard
Executive Producer: Ally Polly 
 Production: Picture Farm

Producer: Ben Freedman & Stefania Consarino at Picture Farm
Director of Photography: Bjorn Charpentier
Editors: Moondog Films

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Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
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Tim Geoghegan's picture

I wouldn't say ALL efforts by brands to get involved socially are bad. In fact, I think brands should get more involved socially (where and when appropriate). 'Purpose' messaging – if it truly aligns with the brand's commitments/ history/ people – could be a very good thing. But yes, it all has to be looked at VERY critically to ensure any issue isn't being exploited or pandered to.

This spot though...ouch. This goes WAY past 'purpose' and 'social cause' messaging. It goes directly into KA-CHING territory it seems (or, tried to). There is nothing sincere about it. Not at all. Even IF, at some point, someone felt sincere (about what message?) in the process – there's nothing sincere here and a brand like this has no right to associate nevermind co-opt such political and social issues. It's completely inauthentic and cringeworthy.

This is why brands need outside agencies. Or – at the very least – why they need outside advisors to tell them this would be a very, very bad idea.

*I'm available for a reasonable fee.

kidsleepy's picture

Agreed -- if not agencies at least outside advisors are completely necessary especially when wading in this territory and especially if you've never done so before. (I don't count Pepsi Refresh in this context.)

Dabitch's picture

This had so many layers of cringe, I needed massage therapy just to be able to type this.

The music, it's awful. The musicians who take their expensive instruments to a protest (insurance ain't gonna cover that, bruh), the fact that Kendall only joins the protest because a cute guy makes eye contact with her - why aren't today's feminists complaining about her agency being set by a man? - the fact that she managed to change into (very fashionable expensive) jeans in less than 10 seconds to join the protest. The hijab-wearing nose-pierced photographer. Pick one Indian religious culture at a time, please, you ignorant idiots. It's as if they simply ran the mood board. Who has ever seen a protest group this clean and attractive before? They're straight from central casting.

I hate this ad with the heat of a thousand suns. It's the commercial equivalent of "How do you do, fellow kids"

But to everyones point, I hate commercials joining any "social justice" causes to begin with. Brands went from selling, to storytelling, to injecting themselves into the stories and very few brands should be doing it. Cause marketing is for brands who actually work on a cause, everything else is "causewashing", and it stinks.

kidsleepy's picture


Perhaps it will help if I tell you the "Marley," in question who made this song is Bob Marley's grandson? You love the music now, right?
Either way, so many articles were written about it, Pepsi got all the earned media and then some. I'm sure some schmuck in their in-house agency has already prepared a Google slide showing the impressions numbering in the "trillions," never mind that the impressions are all unfavorable.

Marek Bačo's picture

Yes! Thank you!
Those are exactly my thoughts (only you just describe it in a way I would never ever would be able to do so). Wrong on so many levels, pure grotesque... But of course PEPSI is proud of it.

fairuse's picture

Caught me trying to escape Facebook. The ad probably got its start trying to pull off Coke feel good theme for all I know. If I have to watch it again it gets muted. I can say it looks like a stage play rehearsal.

I had to look up cause-washing [hyphen is okay] and read that soft drink companies are good at this.

James Mitchem's picture

Hey bro, this Pepsi tastes pretty good. Let's let these protestors do whatever they want.

Dabitch's picture

Hi Marek! Yeah pure grotesque is the word, honestly.

& c'mon Kidsleepy of course I knew, but that don't impress me much.

Tim's picture

I agree with your point, Ask.
I think, if a brand wants to make a difference, first do. Put investment, effort, commitment behind something. And take that stand even when it's not popular. Even if it can hurt part their business to stand up for a principle or value. Then, sure, make a commercial that talks about it. But they probably wouldn't have to.

They didn't even embrace a 'purpose' in this ad though. The brand even said it was all about 'unity'; 'bringing people to together' to 'keep the peace.' How? I guess by quelling dissent. Getting along. Being harmonious. Because maybe that's 'more important' than any social/ environmental/ political issues we could have, right? Don't threaten the stability of the market. So the only 'purpose' I saw in that spot was to promote capitalism by exploiting actual social aping activism without understanding what it is actually meant to do.

Are they aware enough to realize what the real issues even are? Or maybe they're only aware of their day jobs – the product consumption/ profit data, and what the 'cultural buzz' is – only to leverage to sell more product? I hope not. But that's also why so many brands are too close to their own business to be change their perspective understand what their customers/ audience really care about.

That takes humanity/ empathy...and those are design-based concerns. Story-based. Not really taught to most CMOs. And, not valued.

That's the value we have.

Dabitch's picture

Yes, exactly. It needs to be part of the brand DNA, everything else is just window dressing. In other words, it's fake, and consumers are turned off by fake.

Sport's picture

It's possible that Pepsi are laughing their way to the bank after this one. The earned media has been huge. Sure, it's all negative, but it's been huge.

Checking Twitter it seems that the consensus among African Americans that this is "a result of advertising agency meetings without a single black person in the room." This assumes that there was none, which I find insulting. We all know this wasn't an ad agency, but in house, and that is part of the problem. The snake-oil salesmen who tour the world lecturing for money have been pushing this idea of "owning a cause" and "cause marketing" to the point of absurdity, and that too has something to do with it. But the simplest explanation is this; Pepsi are simply out of touch. They saw marches on the news and thought they could follow a simple formula. Kids are int marches these days, lets make a peace march. But the marches in reality are violent riots in Berkely, Ferguson, and women's marches where women were called transphobic for carrying signs or symbols of female anatomy. None of the marches that have happened in the past year had anything to do with peace, but division. It's not 2003 any longer, these people need to get out of their in house office and stop drinking their own Pepsi.

Dabitch's picture

I just discovered that my tweet about this made it into Resumé, as Robert Svensson notes in his Cannes writeup that I called it as soon as it aired.

"Åsk is the smartest and most experienced advertising connoisseur you probably never heard of. One of my greatest starstruck moments was when the former Resumé reporter, now Sitrus Director, Andreas Dahlin introduced me to her here in Cannes at the end of the last millennium. Obviously, Åsk's judgment was correct. She is almost always right."

Funny. :)