black lives matter

It's 2017...

Can this still be an accident? Are companies really this oblivious to the content they are creating?

This April two large companies have created racially insensitive advertisements to promote their products. First, Pepsi creates a commercial that plays into the Black Lives Matter protests. Then Nivea, a skin care company, creates a print ad featuring the tagline "White Is Purity." Both companies received an understandable amount of backlash for each advertisement.

To start we will look at the Pepsi commercial...

The inspiration of the commercial came from the recent killings of African Americans by police officers throughout the world. The company hoped the commercial would play into the Black Lives Matter movement, which would raise awareness for the movement while tying Pepsi to a popular topic. Although the company may have had good intentions about the message the commercial was creating, Pepsi received a lot of backlash against the ad.

There are multiple issues with the commercial that viewers have addressed. The first being that Jenner seems to solve police brutality by handing a police officer a can of Pepsi. People seem to be upset that Pepsi is oversimplifying the solution to police brutality.

A tweet from a viewer that did not agree with the solution to police brutality

Another issue that viewers have found with the commercial is the comparison the commercial seems to make between Jenner and Ieshia Evans. Evans is a black woman that is known for the image of her peaceful protest, featuring her face to face with a line of police officers. Viewers seem to think that Pepsi is cashing in on the image of Evans by paralleling Jenner in a similar scene. This comparison is insensitive as Evans was involved in a real protest exercising her right to a peaceful protest. To depict Jenner in the same way, who does not appear to be protesting any issue in particular, is insulting to the courage it took Evans to stand before these police officers.

Tweets mentioning the comparison between Evans and Jenner

... But it gets worse. Nivea boarded the "racist train" and put out this ad...

The advertisement only lasted for two days before the company retracted it and issued an apology. Although this is not the first time the company has had issues over racially insensitive ads. Back in 2011 the company produced this ad...

The ad implies that a black man with a beard and afro is not as civilized as a black man who is clean shaven with short hair. This ad shames black culture and was retracted shortly after publication due to backlash.

However, these ads have been able to spark attention from Saturday Night Live as they spoofed the insensitive Pepsi ad, reminding the world that not everyone is completely tone deaf to racial issues. The skit features the directors perspective to the commercial, as he talks over the vision of the ad while being told how insensitive it is.

Unfortunately for Jenner, the backlash against the Pepsi commercial seems to be more so directed against her rather than the company that produced it. Although she is not blameless for the insensitive commercial, she did decide to appear in it after all, she was not the one who wrote the commercial. The SNL skit that pokes fun at the tone deaf commercial seems to highlight who is really to blame for the ad, the writer and director! Therefore SNL is not only highlighting what is wrong with this commercial, they are also properly laying the blame away from Jenner (somewhat) to the real culprits.

It is horrifying to see such racially insensitive content still being produced into the world, but it is always uplifting to see society counteract the negative by creating new content that outlines the problems and works to fix them. Although these advertisements are still being produced, it is amazing to see how quickly people come together to highlight any issues the advertisements seem to be celebrating. This is when social media becomes a very powerful platform as millions of people can come together to fight against oppressive material.

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