It was inevitable that advertisers would eventually leap at the opportunity to commercialize activism, with the presence that protesting has taken in the media. A big corporation like Pepsi can see this as a major opportunity for another iconic ad like others the company has had in the past (ala the Michael Jackson) ad. It’s clear that this needs to appeal to millennials, so which celebrity goes in? One of the Kardashians? Sure.
The finished product is cringe-inducing, like that kid who bursts in during a fight; saying “can’t we just get along?” and gets booed out of the room. It is inoffensive cauliflower in an era where that simply doesn’t work anymore, its antiquated.
The thesis, as far as can be ascertained, is about the evolution of American society. We are moving towards a country of heavy political strife and one with an industry that heavily emphasizes creative innovation. When it cuts to an artist early on, he is drinking a Pepsi; and as the commercial nears its crescendo, known activist Kendall Jenner hands a Pepsi to one of the police officers, and he likes it. He looks to one of his buddies and gives a sitcom shrug. The hipsters cheer. Roll credits.
What makes this so nails-on-a-chalkboard awful? A first point is how disconnected from reality this is. The ultimate point may have been to show that Pepsi will always be relevant and change with the times, but tying it into a major political issue like police violence is woefully misguided. It simplifies the issue down where the solution is clear and present. This commercial makes it seem like the ad firm who produced it doesn’t understand or respect the issues.
This is not to say ‘love will conquer all’ is not a common theme batted around in media, but it has been used so often now. Pepsi wants to say that it will always adapt to the times and goes to one of the oldest tricks in the book. It would be reasonable to make the argument that the commercial’s heart is ultimately in the right place, but so what? Saccharine for saccharine’s sake becomes irritating and obnoxious.
Kendall Jenner is in the commercial. The only purpose for her that can be assumed is that she’s here to effectively pander to millennials, because she contributes nothing else with regards to demographics or the ad itself. It’s interesting that the ad ties her to an activist group, when activists and protestors tend to be lower to middle income people who are mad about the income gap, one gap which Ms. Jenner is profiting from.
When punk rock died was when it started gaining popularity and the anger of the earlier years began to become unsustainable. With popularity came commercialization, and eventually a decline in quality. The same could possibly be applied to the spike in activism in the wake of the rise of our current President. Born out of anger and antithetical to popularity, it could very well be starting to die the same way.