How Did Advertisements Get Everything So Wrong This Week?

How Did Advertisements Get Everything So Wrong This Week?

Pepsi and Nivea are under fire for putting out racist and unsettling advertisements.

Pepsi and Nivea are under fire for putting out racist and unsettling advertisements.

Text: Jake Viswanath

In the wake of hate incidents and discriminatory attitudes that have risen since Trump won the election, most businesses and rational people have made welcome efforts to promote inclusion in their endeavors, raise awareness of the oppression of marginalized people, and to not appropriate their cultures and beliefs in an inconsiderate way. Somehow, parts of the advertising industry did not get the memo this week, resulting in two horrendous judgment calls from big businesses.

Earlier this week, Pepsi released a video for their “Moments” campaign starring Kendall Jenner, with the intent of encouraging people to look at what’s going on around them and “live for now.” Apparently, their idea of living in the moment means appropriating the resistance movement, using important Black Lives Matter visuals for their own gain, and sending the message that a Pepsi from a white woman can single-handedly stop police officers from engaging in brutality. As Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter Bernice King stated, if only he knew about the power of Pepsi.

What’s even more disappointing about this ad was that it had potential. The company could have raised awareness about resistance movements without erasing their core values and implying that Pepsi was the answer to the world’s most pressing issues. Instead, they chose to water down today’s purpose and messages of protests, using nondescript slogans like “join the conversation” and trivializing the importance of Black Lives Matter while at it.

Pepsi has since pulled the campaign and apologized for any offense caused by them (a lot), specifically apologizing to Jenner for dragging her into this mess, but the damage has already been done. What could have been a part of a plethora of iconic Pepsi ads, including those by Britney, Beyoncé, and Cindy, is now irreparably broken. What gives, Pepsi?

In an even more unsettling move, Nivea is also rightfully under fire for an advertisement that consider racist and supportive of white supremacy, and for good reason. The ad was posted on the brand’s Middle East Facebook page, depicting a woman in a white robe after freshening up for the day with the slogan “white is purity.” The ad was then shared by accounts that have previously supported white supremacist views, because of course it was.

Nivea is one of the world’s most famous skincare companies, so their advertising naturally lends itself to promoting cleanliness and feeling your best. But associating only the color white with purity is absolutely abhorrent and a ridiculous oversight, especially with their history of telling black men with afros to “re-civilize” themselves in a previous ad. The company has apologized and pulled the ad due to “concerns about ethnic discriminations.” People have reacted by telling them not to refer to colors, but it seems like their true colors are slowly cracking open.

We would all like to believe that we’re aware of what’s happening in the world and making an effort to acknowledge them in a respectable way. But if these two events teach us anything, it’s that many people still need to be educated about how not to be discriminatory or trivializing in any way. Progress isn’t perfect, but speaking out about how to represent people and promote diversity in appropriate ways will only push us further in a better direction.


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