In April, Pepsi released an ad featuring Kendall Jenner joining and seemingly ending a tense protest in an attempt to “project a global message of unity, peace and understanding.” Instead, the ad, which was removed within days due to major backlash, came across as tone-deaf to social issues, protesters and Pepsi’s target audience for the commercial: Millennials.
Following the ad’s release, unhappy viewers took to Twitter and Facebook to share their opinions, many feeling like the ad was trivializing racial tension and social injustice.
Though Pepsi publicly apologized and took down the ad after the backlash emerged, several prominent figures continued sharing their thoughts; including Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter, Bernice. She tweeted, “If only daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi.”
While Pepsi took the right steps and immediately removed the ad and publicly apologized, the backlash for the ad remained strong and seemingly symbolized the public’s growing discontent with out of touch advertisers who co-opt social movements for profit. According to a survey conducted by the Morning Consult, 25 percent of people found Pepsi less favorable after the ad. This controversy makes for a PR disaster that only time—and a concerted effort on Pepsi’s part to learn from its mistakes—can heal.
The 5 Biggest PR Flops of 2017:
#4: Pepsi’s Stab at World Peace