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Pepsi has quickly pulled the plug on an ad that showed reality TV star Kendall Jenner joining a protest and offering one of its fizzy drinks to a police officer.
Pepsi said in a statement on Wednesday:
Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologise. 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.
The ad drew near-instantaneous criticism on social media, where some commentators described it as a tone-deaf attempt to capitalise on social-justice issues for its own gain. The video has already been removed from YouTube.
The firestorm hasn’t done much to dim the share price of Pepsi parent PepsiCo, which was trading up 0.2 per cent in midday trading.
Despite the controversy, Pepsi may have gotten just what it wanted with the short-lived ad, according to Mary Harding, managing director at communications agency Tangerine: “It’s ticked all the boxes in terms of raising awareness and ironically did bring people together as millennials flocked to social media to discuss it. Ultimately there’s no doubt it’ll drive sales overall for the brand.”