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Did Pepsi just make the worst faux “woke” ad ever?

Marketing is part of the machine built to sell us stuff.

There are plenty of tried and tested techniques to do this. Some ads play on our sense of patriotism. Others try to make us laugh or cry.

But Pepsi has just released something truly awful – and it’s the clumsiest and most tone-deaf ad in a long time.

Prepare yourself for Pepsi’s Live For Now Moments Anthem starring Kendall Jenner & feat. ‘Lions’ by Skip Marley.

The ad opens with a handsome Asian dude playing cello on a roof. He is doing this because he “lives for the moment”. Nothing wrong with that. So far so good.

Next, we are treated to a shot of a super happy and positive protest and this is where things start to go awry. There’s a nice collection of good-looking people of all races and they are holding generic signs that say things like “Join the Conversation” and “I don’t agree with that thing”.

The commodification of civil unrest and protesting would be bad anytime but is particularly awkward in lieu of recent pushback from societies worldwide.

Back in the real world, Black Lives Matter protests have erupted following the police shootings of unarmed black men. And following the election of Donald Trump, there was the Women’s March on Washington.

Somehow Pepsi’s marketing team looked at these problems and said “This is a great opportunity to sell soda”.

We see a shot of a presumably Muslim woman in a hijab going through some of her photos. See, everyone is welcome in the New Pepsi World! Apparently they’re going for inclusivity, not tokenism.

This is also echoed by the song which we hear over some more footage of the hippest, happiest protesters ever.

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

What if I told you there was someone that could solve all these problems? And that that person is Kendall Jenner? You’d totally believe me right? Good.

We see a photographer getting some shots of Kendall who just happens to be doing a shoot right next to the protest. Kendall is different from other Instagram models. She is a #woke #feminist #equalrightssupporter and she isn’t just gonna sit around while people are enjoying a nice protest.

Meanwhile, Cello Man and Hijab Lady notice the civil disobedience and decide to join in. Naturally, the guy brings his cello because that’s something essential to any protest.

Forget Molotov cocktails and balaclavas. This guy brought a large orchestral string instrument. Time for an impromptu street jam! With dancers! Wait, is this a protest or a festival? It’s getting hard to tell.

Suddenly Kendall makes eye contact with Cello Man, who urges her to join in. As anyone joining a march would do, Kendall rips off her blonde wig revealing her “true colours”. Are you sitting down? She was actually a brunette all along! She removes her lipstick too, because the revolution is all about natural beauty and #nofilter, people.

For some reason, there is an ice bucket of Pepsi on the street next to the protest. Kendall grabs one and makes her way through the crowd, high-fiving her fellow citizens.

She then walks right past everyone and hands the soda to a handsome policeman.

As noted by Elle, this moment cynically rips off a now iconic image of a protester captured during a Black Lives Matter protest. In real life, the police dragged her away.

In the Pepsi version, the police officer drinks the soda and the crowd cheers. Pack it up, everybody. Sexism, racism and all forms of discrimination have now been solved. And all it took was a Pepsi.

Wow. So believable!

To add insult to injury, the ad was released the day before the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death. We hope that’s a coincidence.

Needless to say, the response on Twitter has been swift and merciless. Here’s a sampling of some of the many angry tweets:

Pepsi – what were you thinking?

About the author

Stefan is an Adelaide-based freelance writer. In his spare time, he plays tennis badly, collects vinyl and brushes up on his Mandarin. Follow Stefan on Twitter

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