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Kendall Jenner Joins The Resistance For Pepsi And–UPDATE–People Hate It

Commodify your dissent.

Kendall Jenner Joins The Resistance For Pepsi And–UPDATE–People Hate It

This is it. This is the sign. #RESIST has officially gone mainstream. Maybe it was the People’s Climate March back in 2014, or the Women’s March in January, but you know dissent is catching on when a brand like Pepsi latches its marketing talons into it. Case in point, this new global ad starring Kendall Jenner as a model-turned-protester, marching in the streets to the tune of Skip Marley’s “Lion.”

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Yeah, if ya took all my rights away
Yeah, if ya tellin’ me how to pray
Yeah, if ya won’t let us demonstrate
Yeah, you’re wrong
Yeah, if ya thinking I don’t belong
Yeah, if ya hiding behind a gun
Yeah, if ya hoping we’re gonna run
Ya wrong

Pretty edgy for a sugar water ad, non? Or is it? Created by Creators League Studio, PepsiCo’s in-house creative team, the ad features a protest of some kind–for love? Peace? Equality?–but remains ambiguous enough to tap into everyone’s own confirmation bias. Though, the diversity of the crowd suggests it’s not exactly calling for a quicker construction timeline for The Wall.  Perhaps the most interesting moment comes when we see a line of (surprisingly unarmed) police set to block the protesters, and Jenner pulls a flower power move, with a can of Pepsi subbing in for a carnation.

At a time of handwringing over whether brands should be taking a stand on social and policy issues, and how they might do it, Pepsi has sidestepped the issue completely by creating an ad that tries to tap into all the emotion of dissent, with none of the conviction. What is the message here? What are they actually standing up for? Maybe the brand is telling us by its choice of soundtrack. But more realistically, it’s half-stepping, and at a time like this, that lack of clarity reeks of all style, no substance.

UPDATED: Hoo boy! This thing really escalated quickly yesterday. This original post went up at 10:20 AM, and by 10:20 PM last night the Internet had found the ad and went straight for Pepsi’s throat. Some because it appeared to trivialize the civil rights movement, others just for its hysterically tone deaf approach to any issue around civil protest. And the critics were often hilarious. Below a sampling of the social response.

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About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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