Enna Uwaifo discusses why the new controversial Pepsi advert is part of a worrying trend and why black representation on advertising boards is so important.
One of the most powerful pictures of 2016 shows Ieshia Evans, 28, a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protestor boldly standing in front of two policemen in full riot gear. She was arrested on that day, along with other protesters, for her refusal to leave the area’s highway. Her friends stated that she attended the protest in order for her to look her 5-year-old son in the eye and say that she fought for his rights and freedom.
This moment signifies a woman wanting relations between the black community and the police to change; her eagerness for this change led her to step forward and make sure that the two police officers see her face, the pain and the passion. She refuses to be invisible.
The policemen’s mere presence alone in their heavy armour is sure to instil hostility and division. The contrast in the picture is strong; a beautiful black woman in a sundress in a stand-off between 2 policemen in riot gear. Yet, she looks perfectly at peace, the duality of her fearlessness and her innocence is hard to ignore, difficult to swallow. This picture is legendary.
“The parallel between Black Lives Matter and the Pepsi advert came from the exploitation of Ieshia Evans’ iconic moment in her stand-off with the police”
On the 5th of April, Pepsi released a controversial ad called “Jump In”. The advert was beautifully shot. It showed a melting pot of different people coming together for a common, unspecified cause. However, there was a part of the advert that sparked major controversy, leading to Pepsi later apologising and taking it down.
The parallel between Black Lives Matter and the Pepsi advert came from the exploitation of Ieshia Evans’ iconic moment in her stand-off with the police. Similarly, in the advert, Kendall Jenner stands in front of one of the four policemen and hands him a can of Pepsi. There is momentary silence and then the crowd yells in glee because by doing this, Jenner solves the big issue that the protest was centred around, I assume police brutality.
By some media outlets, the Black Lives Matter movement has been painted as being a violent, angry and nonsensical movement, full of sensitive black people who are anti-police. While I do not personally advocate that big corporations are required to show support for political issues or even get involved in politics, I do believe that they should play a role in not making a mockery out of contemporary issues.
The “Jump In” advert was meant to be hilarious, which is exactly where the problem lies; nothing about what Evans did was funny, and the Black Lives Matter movement is not a joke. The use of her moment recreated in the advert is an example of using activism and narratives to sell a product. To me, this is troublesome.
“With the BLM movement hitting home for many black people, there would be the much needed voice to say ‘No, I don’t think that’s a good idea'”
Pepsi advert was a good one until the moment between Kendall Jenner and the policeman; it makes me wonder, why was the idea of that moment between Jenner and police considered acceptable? Then it emerged that the whole team of people that worked on the Pepsi advert was “lacking in the diversity.” In other words, it was majority white. A few people might read this and ask, why does that even matter? The whole world is comprised of people from different backgrounds; this builds their experience and their perspective of the world. When teams, using contemporary political happenings to sell their products, are predominantly white, it could lead to situations…like this.
The input from black people on the board working on advertisements would have saved Pepsi from the public lashing with harsh criticism and memes that make the company look, frankly, very ignorant. With the BLM movement hitting home for many black people, there would be the much needed voice to say “No, I don’t think that’s good idea.”