Back in my day, Pepsi was a great soda. So much so that the soft drink was deemed “The Choice of A New Generation.”
Nowadays, there’s a new generation of folk who prefer Pepsi, too. But this generation seems to be confused about the traditional purpose of this soda.
If not, then why else would Pepsi create “Jump In”, a two-and-a-half-minute online depiction of this:
As either a roast or toast to Black Lives Matter (you decide), a group of extremely good looking millennials take to the streets in protest. The protesters laugh and smile as they walk down the street with signs such as “Peace” and “Join The Conversation.” Then an extremely good looking white woman abandons her photo shoot to walk with the protesters. The protest turns into delirium when the woman gives a can of Pepsi to an extremely handsome (OK, good-looking) cop, who has formed a cordon with other policemen. And in one fell swoop, Pepsi softens tensions between the protesters and the police.
Upon its release, the ad was immediately met with backlash from users of social media. Some viewed the ad as falsely using white lives as a stand in for black pain and suffering. Others highlighted the ad’s tone-deaf conflation of critiquing police brutality and racism with drinking through social issues.
In other words, this was not a good look for Pepsi.
After looking at the ad, I concluded that Pepsi was marketed as a quencher of the thirst for justice that drives social movements. Or shall say I say “just add liquid and chill.”
Either way, the soft drink company quickly pulled the ad, stating, “Pepsi was trying to project a global a message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout.”
Getting on the mark requires a meeting of the voices that approved of this confusing generation of media for public consumption.
Having already pulled the ad, Pepsi should now focus on pulling off the following feats:
• Pulling the plug on political correctness that whitewashes the racialized aspects of political events or movements;
• Pulling out all of the stops to demonstrate a sustained commitment to social justice;
• Pulling the trigger on ideas that promote diversity as the authentic inclusion of minoritized groups;
I know that this sounds like a lot to pull.
But this blog is a simple suggestion for pushing a soft drink in ways that sizzle with cultural awareness and cultural sensitivity.
And there’s no reason for this idea to not become a choice that new generations of Pepsi lovers can toast to in the future.
Mack Hines is a resident of Prosper, Texas