RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
It didn't even take a day for Pepsi to dump its new ad campaign. It started with a video that seemed pretty standard at first - crowds drinking Pepsi, break dancers, high fives - then model Kendall Jenner appears, transforming, shedding her slinky dress and blond wig to join a street protest.
(SOUNDBITE OF AD)
SKIP MARLEY: (Singing) We are the lions. We are the chosen. We gonna shine out the dark.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
So Pepsi seemed to be trying to play to a diverse demographic, including featuring a Muslim woman in a headscarf portraying a photographer. But the backlash against the ad has been swift. Here is how it immediately struck Elahe Izadi, who writes about pop culture for The Washington Post.
ELAHE IZADI: I swear to you, at first I thought it was parody. I mean, I just couldn't believe how they were able to mash in all of these cliches into two minutes.
MARTIN: Pepsis said in a statement that the intent of the ad was to send a, quote, "global message of unity, peace and understanding." In the video, marchers held blue signs that read love or peace or join the conversation. Kendall Jenner approached a police line and handed a Pepsi to a smiling officer.
(SOUNDBITE OF AD)
GREENE: And many saw that as an insult to the Black Lives Matter movement. And Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., tweeted (reading) if only Daddy would have known about the power of Pepsi.
Some others denounced the ad as anti-cop. Elahe Izadi says the message wasn't clear.
IZADI: It can be tricky to use a protest movement to sell a commercial product, but when it's kind of hinting at something, maybe Black Lives Matter or the kind of anti-Trump resistance - capital R - but not quite doubling down, then it just becomes completely tone deaf.
MARTIN: Pepsi quickly apologized, both for the ad and to Kendall Jenner. The company said it did not intend to make light of any serious issue.
(SOUNDBITE OF ELAQUENT'S "PERCHANCE TO DREAM")
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.