Culture

​More woke than Coke: Pepsi slammed for tone-deaf protest ad

Pepsi and Kendall Jenner just want the riot police to relax. But unlike a cooler of ice-cold cola, the internet has zero chill.

You remember where you were.

The day you walked alongside Martin Luther King. The countless hours you spent occupying Wall Street. That time Kendall Jenner gave you a Pepsi...

The beverage company is facing a massive backlash on social media over its latest ad, featuring model Kendall Jenner, which critics have slammed for cheapening civil protest in the name of selling cola.

The 30-second spot starts as typical ad-land fair. Kendall Jenner is at a photoshoot when protesters start walking by her down the street. So the model/Instagrammer/reality star/all-round Slashie ditches her wig and makeup (stars! They're just like us!) and joins the protest.

But when Jenner breaks free from the masses and stares down a line of riot police, that's when we start to get a little nervous. She has the solution! Give the fuzz some Pepsi and suddenly this protest is chill AF -- thanks to the joy of Pepsi-Cola.

Sure, the protest is more vanilla than a spin-off from a rival cola brand.

But maybe appropriating the imagery of the civil rights movement, the women's lib movement and countless other major pushes towards social and political change wasn't the most woke thing to do?

There's no reason why brands can't get political. Airbnb and Audi used their air time at the Super Bowl to call for acceptance and equality in modern society, while Cadillac addressed "a nation divided" with an ad spot during the Oscars.

But the reaction against Pepsi has been swift, with the Color of Change campaign specifically calling out the brand for using images "exploiting the activism of Black women."

Pepsi has defended the ad, saying in a statement, "This is a global ad that reflects people from different walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony, and we think that's an important message to convey."

Whether it was an ad pitched at a modern generation or tone-deaf appropriation, we've certainly learned one thing out of this: There's nothing as refreshing as dismantling the tools of systemic injustice. YOLO!

Updated at 1:24 p.m. AEST: Added statement from Pepsi.