Less than one week on from the release and subsequent retraction of Pepsi’s latest advertisement – you know, the one where Kendall Jenner leads a protest and hands a police officer a can of Pepsi as a peace offering – people are still scratching their heads, collecting their jaws from the floor wondering how on earth the soft drink giant’s campaign ever actually got approved.
“The first time I watched it, I actually thought it might be a joke,” RMIT advertising lecturer Kerin Elsum tells me when I ask her about the ad on Friday.
“I literally don’t know how it got through,” she continues. “All I can think of is that you’ve got a group of short-sighted older people in Pepsi and they’re just not with what’s happening out there in the world and just didn’t predict the backlash.”
The two-and-a-half minute ad, which was conceptualised and produced by Pepsi’s in-house advertising team and amassed over 5.5 million views in just two days, is rumoured to have cost up to US $5 million to produce.
Loosely referencing a number of historic social movements, the ad fails not just because it’s insanely tone deaf and simplistic, but because it tries to do too much in one short space.
It tries to reach too many people and stand for every social movement. It wants a social media generation but also the older social activists too.
"It's not so much that all of the messages in the ad were bad," Elsum says, "it's more that the execution of it is really pathetic. If you're going to be bold enough to do that, do it properly."
"There were too many narratives in there that just didn't work and it was opportunistic to try and go off the whole demonstration thing. If you look at it, they've almost tried to put every stereotype into it; to me it's almost like a joke," Elsum says, adding, "They've obviously done some research to try and tie the ad in with other moments in history, but they've just really missed the mark. It's the wrong way of going about it."