The Pepsi Challenge: Humanize Kendall Jenner?

By David Himmel

The new Pepsi ad featuring model Kendall Jenner has the Internet all up in arms. Something that happens quite often over just about anything. The Internet, if we are to treat it as one entity, is an hyper-sensitive teenager that should be paying attention to its studies instead of getting pissed that the meatball spaghetti dinner mom made wasn't organically sourced.

This ad has incensed hundreds of thousands because it appears to make light of the latest youthful craze: protesting. And yeah, it does that. And that's dumb. But so what? So Pepsi made a dumb commercial. Some of the rage comes out of the fact that Pepsi is not authentic in recognizing the impact and important meanings behind the Peace Movement or protests like Black Lives Matter and the Women's March. And again, so what?


Advertisers are wise to use our emotions against us to sell us things. Pepsi's commercial was a bad commercial. Plain and simple. But the intent behind it to use modern times and emotional warfare is no different than a few other name brands did earlier this year.  Like Honda's ad with the famous people in the yearbook, Audi's ad about a dad wanting his daughter to be able to race cars if she wants or 84 Lumber's spot showing the traveling immigrant. Yes, these are better ads but if you're upset that Pepsi tried to use the issues that touch your heart to sell you a product, be sure to spread your outrage to Honda, Audi and 84 Lumber.

Or don't, because it doesn't really matter. It's all just crap you can live without anyway. In fact, there's a good chance those products will kill you. An average of 1.3 million people die in car wrecks annually. Drinking too much soda can lead to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Lumber? Well, you could get a real nasty splinter. And that sucks. It really, really sucks.

What the Pepsi ad inadvertently did was humanize Kendall Jenner. It's almost like Pepsi was a pawn in the Kardashian-Jenner marketing machine to make her one of Us. Super Girl without her cape. Here's an über-privileged celebrity that begins the almost three-minute long ad in a blond wig having her photo taken by some high-end fashion photographer, I'm sure, while the march/protest is humming along. She is, in reality, and at the start of this spot, apart from the world beyond her own. Then some dude gives her a look. She rips off the wig, wipes away her lipstick and—BOOM—she is one of us. A commoner. A street person who makes her way through the crowd with a can of Pepsi intended for a police officer. The presentation is a nod to Ieshia Evans being arrested in Baton Rogue—we've all seen the image. And that nod isn't as insulting as it is just plain stupid.

If only she had brought baked goods or, I know, a can of pop! All of this could have been avoided.

If only she had brought baked goods or, I know, a can of pop! All of this could have been avoided.


Why? Because it's Kendall Jenner. Because Pepsi doesn't have the cops in riot gear. And the crowd erupts in jubilation when the cop takes a swig of the delicious soda. It's like they won the War on Peace with this simple gesture. If only a wealthy young woman would have brought a cop a can of Pepsi earlier we could have avoided Ferguson. Why didn't Evans think of that in Baton Rogue? Oh, you silly, stupid poor people.

The Pepsi ad is moronic. Bad advertising. Plain as that. It's certainly not "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke." And that's because Coke used everyday people to promote harmony. Actors, sure, but not brand name celebrities with two moms and a brother-in-law named Kanye West. 


The goal was to sell Pepsi. Will it work? Doubt it. Will it hurt Pepsi's bottom line? Doubt that, too. My father-in-law drinks enough of the stuff to support the Pepsi CEO's lifestyle for another fifty years. Did it make Kendall Jenner into a mere mortal? Eh. But it's the closest thing to any kind of accomplishment the ad could muster.

Of course, like I said, none of this matters. We'll move on from this outrage soon enough to make room for the next infuriating thing. And it'll probably be something Lena Dunham says.

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