Pepsi’s recent commercial featuring model Kendall Jenner and Nivea’s advertisement that stated “white is purity” are still facing backlash for their questionable and racist themes.
Though both ads have been pulled and each company has issued respective statements apologizing for the messages they conveyed, both situations are extremely telling in how the media plays a vital role in the perpetuation and romanticization of racism as well as minority struggles in general. It is almost funny how wrong the Nivea ad was, but Pepsi’s “tone-deaf” video has caused some discussion as to what was really the problem. Firstly, viewers criticized Pepsi’s likening of Kendall Jenner to the photograph of Iesha Evans taken in Baton Rouge by photographer Jonathan Bachman.
Viewers also expressed how the commercial insinuated that protesters could settle discord with police by simply handing them a can of Pepsi. Twitter users made a running joke of the ad, using photographs from infamous historical protests, including one of Martin Luther King Jr. being arrested as well as Tiananmen Square’s “Tank Man,” some included photoshopped Pepsi cans joking how, based on the commercial, these situations could have been solved if only they had a can Pepsi.
While some say that Kendall was just hired to be in the commercial and couldn’t have had any creative control, others say that her willingness to be in that commercial is her being complacent with how the media perpetuates problematic messages. Critics also took issue with the fact that Pepsi even chose Kendall in the first place, citing her privileged 21 year-long life. Other than for her level of fame, her lack of being a present voice in movements for political or social justice also confused many as to why she was chosen to be in the commercial.
Both of these advertisements show that while the media was starting to make progress in terms of representation of marginalized groups, there are still discrepancies when it comes to what marketing executives think is or is not okay. This is another prime example as to why having a seat at the table is more crucial than ever to speak up when content like this has a chance of being put out on large platforms and why there needs to be a diverse set of voices making content about things that specifically affect us.