Pepsi and Kendall Jenner, who stars in the soft-drink maker’s latest ad campaign, have infuriated viewers with a commercial described as “tone deaf” and racially insensitive.
The model and Kardashian clan member’s performance as a Pepsi-wielding protester has onlookers decrying the imagery as an appropriation of the Black Lives Matter movement for corporate ends.
The “Live for Now Moments” video released on Tuesday has Jenner in a platinum wig on a photo shoot as protesters amble by.
She rips off her wig, smears away her lipstick and joins them, eventually handing an officer on the demonstration line a can of Pepsi.
A woman wearing a hijab photographs the moment before they all dance with joy.
Reaction on social media ranged from some saying the imagery was tone deaf, to it evoking a widely circulated photo of Black Lives Matter protester Ieshia Evans last year in Louisiana.
Evans was peacefully protesting the police shootings of two black men in 2016 when she was arrested by armed riot officers and imprisoned overnight.
The ensuing photo, titled Taking a Stand in Baton Rouge and captured by Reuters photographer Jonathan Bachman, went viral online as a symbol of US police brutality.
— Geraldine (@everywhereist) April 4, 2017
US comedian Rob Fee compared the ad to the 2012 shooting of unarmed 17-year-old black man Trayvon Martin by neighbourhood watch coordinator Russell Zimmerman.
“If only Kendall Jenner had been around to give George Zimmerman a Pepsi,” Fee tweeted.
Pepsi is defending its ad from widespread condemnation by saying it “reflects people from different walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony”.
Jenner isn’t commenting on the controversy, merely choosing to share the ad on her Twitter account with the words, “out now!”.
The 21-year-old also tweeted she was “honoured” to be the first model since Cindy Crawford to star in a global Pepsi campaign.
Crawford starred in a now iconic 1992 ad for Pepsi that aired during the Super Bowl.