Pepsi's Kendall Jenner Commercial Wasn't the Only Tone-Deaf Ad This Week

April 5th 2017

Almie Rose

Everyone is talking about Pepsi this week because of its latest controversial commercial starring a well-known reality star.

But while everyone was up in arms with the soda company, another major brand debuted it's own tone-deaf advertisement, too. Twitter users had a field day over both ads, and ATTN: spoke with an expert to help explain how such advertisements even make it to see the light of day. 

In case you missed it, Pepsi premiered a commercial starring Kendall Jenner that casts the Kardashian-adjacent sibling as a hero in a faux protest.

The ad uses imagery from Black Lives Matter protests to depict Jenner as a fighter for social justice who unites police and protestors by offering a cop a refreshing can of Pepsi.

The Washington Post broke down everything that was wrong with the ad, and the backlash on Twitter started popping up immediately.

Bernice King, Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter, weighed in since the ad premiered on Tuesday, which was the anniversary of her father's death.

"How nobody raised their hand and said, 'This is super tasteless appropriation and maybe, we should just do literally anything else' is perplexing to me, a copywriter at a long running ad agency J. Walter Thompson told ATTN:. The copywriter, who declined to be identified, clarified he was speaking on his own behalf, not on his agency's. 

On Wednesday, Pepsi issued the following apology:

"Pepsi was trying to project a global 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 removing the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position."

But the company's apology didn't go over so well with Twitter.

Meanwhile, in the midst of the Pepsi frenzy, another ad was called out — and also later pulled.

Nivea released an advertisement for a deodorant using the copy "white is purity."

The Washington Post reports the ad "originally targeted the German skin care company’s followers in the Middle East. It was intended to promote Nivea’s 'Invisible for Black and White' deodorant and depicted the back of a woman’s head with long, wavy, dark hair that tumbled over an all-white outfit."

When one Twitter user replied to the above tweet with "@NIVEAUSA you should be ashamed" the company followed up with this tweet:

But the damage had already been done.

There's indeed a lack of people of color in the advertising world.

"According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the 582,000 Americans employed in advertising and communications in 2014, less than half are women, 6.6 percent are black or African American, 5.7 percent are Asian and 10.5 percent are Hispanic. Together, we can change this," according to an Ad Age 2015 report.

"On the one hand, we are all scoffing at it, talking about how idiotic and out-of-touch it is. On the other hand, we’ve all had a piece of work that started really smart and cool and interesting, and through 10,000 rounds of client feedback and testing and opinions in the room, got morphed into an amorphous, 30-second turd. So I’m not saying I understand how this happened, but I totally understand how this happened," the copy writer told ATTN:.

In regards to the Nivea copy of "white is purity" the copy writer has some thoughts:

"I used to write social copy for ads like this. And sometimes, you have to write 30 to 40 of these at a time. And sometimes, it falls through the cracks. Oops."

Ultimately, he thinks the Pepsi mess could have been avoided if more people of color were in the room.

"Someone who is directly affected by the things that people are protesting against being in the room would likely have been able to inject some tact into this spot," he added.

Now, that's refreshing.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story contained an editing error which made it seem as if we received comment directly from J. Walter Thompson. That is not the case. The comments were given to us by a copy editor at the firm, who spoke on his own behalf.