Twitter users mock controversial Pepsi ad with Arab Spring jokes

Arab Twitter users are linking the clip to the Arab Spring protests which flared up in 2011. (Photo courtesy: Twitter)
Updated 10 April 2017

Twitter users mock controversial Pepsi ad with Arab Spring jokes

DUBAI: As the controversy over Pepsi’s ill-fated advert with Kendall Jenner mounts, with the beverage giant pulling the ad and apologizing on Wednesday, Twitter users are making a host of Arab Spring-related jokes.
Arab social media users have taken to the Internet in droves after the advert garnered international backlash online.
The ad shows Kendall Jenner, a member of the “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” reality TV family, stepping away from a modeling shoot to join a crowd of smiling, young protesters. The protesters cheer after Jenner hands a can of Pepsi to a police officer, who takes a sip.
However, social media users slammed the clip, saying it made light of the recent spate of protests in the US.

“When you imagine the time period that they were conceiving shooting this, it's easy to imagine that the team at Pepsi thought they were making a courageous global epic about unity during a time of rising racial-nationalist, xenophobic populism,” CEO Mark DiMassimo of DiMassimo Goldstein, a New York-based branding agency, told Arab News.

“Celebrity, Thailand, corporate America, the in-house agency, good intentions [were] all major distortion fields - sometimes great marketers make great errors,” he added.

“The protest movement (in the advert), with echoes of Black Lives Matter, is presented as something light and fun, like a big old frat party that's open to everyone … There's flirting and hook-ups and unlikely musical collaborations and a lot of smiles. One wonders why these people are protesting when they are so happy. In the end, Kendall Jenner hands the Pepsi to the least threatening looking cop ever, and his smirk is reminiscent of the final frame of a Mentos “Freshmaker” commercial or that look on mom’s face at the end of an old Sunny D spot. Cheesy.”

After initially defending the advert, Pepsi on Wednesday issues an apology, stating: “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding… Clearly, we missed the mark, and we apologize.”

“If they had been ready to go the full [Donald] Trump playbook and stand behind it and then double down with more action... I still think they could have gotten a lot out of it,” DiMassimo said, adding: “Great advertising is a reflection of the good will that already exists amongst the target audience… I think Pepsi overestimated the good will of this new generation.”

In a sign of the supposed fading of good will, Arab Twitter users are linking the clip to the Arab Spring protests which flared up in 2011.
“Now we know the solution to oppressive Middle East governments is Pepsi. The problem with the Arab Spring is that it was powered by “Bibsi’,” one user joked, referring to the typically Arab pronunciation of the word “Pepsi.”

“Pepsi would’ve made the Arab Spring revolutions a lot more loving and less violent,” another user tweeted.

Another user sighed “if only the Arab spring had Pepsi cola.”

“Tiananmen Square and the Arab Spring should’ve never happened if they had Kendall Jenner and a can of @pepsi,” one Twitter user surmised.

PepsiCo. Inc. had previously said the ad was created by its in-house team and that it would “be seen globally across TV and digital” platforms.
It initially described the spot as featuring “multiple lives, stories and emotional connections that show passion, joy, unbound and uninhibited moments. No matter the occasion, big or small, these are the moments that make us feel alive.” That description was also derided on social media.
The Purchase, New York, company had stood by the ad late Tuesday. By Wednesday, it was apologizing to Jenner for putting her “in this position.”


(With the Associated Press)

America revisits ‘Pizza Bomber’ mystery with new Netflix series

Updated 26 May 2018

America revisits ‘Pizza Bomber’ mystery with new Netflix series

WASHINGTON: As bank heists in America go, this was one of the weirdest: in 2003, a pizza delivery man walks into a bank with a bomb around his neck and a note demanding a quarter of a million dollars.
Police in Pennsylvania apprehend him, but shortly thereafter, the explosive device goes off, ripping a hole in his chest that kills him minutes before the bomb squad arrives.
Netflix has now come out with a mini-series on the robbery and returns to a question that has divided opinion for 15 years: was that man, one Brian Wells, a willing accomplice, or was he the unwitting victim of a bizarre plot?
The four fast-moving episodes of “Evil Genius,” directed by Barbara Schroeder and Trey Borzillieri, look back at all the puzzles that made up this heist in Erie, a small city in the Great Lakes region.
It all begins when Wells, 46, walks into a branch of PNC Bank with a gun shaped like a cane. Around his neck is a collar with a bomb on a timer.
He hands over a note demanding $250,000, but was given just over $8,000, and leaves sucking on a lollipop he grabbed from the counter.
In his hand he carries pages of rambling, hand-written instructions for a sort of a scavenger hunt for keys and combinations hidden around Erie that would remove the collar.
But he never got as far as that hunt. Wells was apprehended near the bank, and handcuffed. Police realized he was wearing a bomb, and kept their distance.
That scene was filmed and broadcast by TV stations around the world.
“I don’t know if I have enough time now,” Wells told police. He said he had been tricked while delivering pizzas.
“I am not lying,” Wells said as he sat on the sidewalk. “It’s gonna go off.”
The collar starts to beep. Wills gets more and more agitated. Then it explodes and kills him.
To recover the explosive device, police had to cut off Wills’ head.
Then, in the following days, odd things start happening in Erie.
Robert Pinetti, a former colleague of Wells, is found dead in his home, apparently the victim of a drug overdose.
Then another man, Bill Rothstein, tells police there is a body in his refrigerator.
The body is that of James Roden, boyfriend of one Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, whom Rothstein describes as a woman who manipulates people.
Diehl-Armstrong, once a brilliant student noted for her striking good looks, suffers from bipolar disorder. Twenty years earlier, she was accused of murdering her then-boyfriend, but argued she had acted in self-defense and was acquitted at trial.
It gets even more complicated, so pay attention.
According to a drug addict named Kenneth Barnes, Diehl-Armstrong planned the bank heist so as to get money to hire him as a hitman to take out her own father, whom she accused of spending the money due her as part of her inheritance.
Rothstein, a former boyfriend of Diehl-Armstrong and a mechanically-gifted eccentric, allegedly designed the bomb.
Diehl-Armstrong is therefore the “Evil Genius,” as the Netflix series is entitled.
Obsessed by this woman, co-director Borzillieri communicated with her for more than 10 years, in writing and over the phone, to better understand the case — becoming particularly focused on the subject of Brian Wells.
“In the beginning, very much like the residents of Erie and law enforcement, I believed that he was involved in this case and did so for a good long while,” said Borzillieri.
“By the end of the journey, my opinion is that he was innocent,” he told AFP.
A long FBI probe found that Wells was a “co-conspirator” — a conclusion which meant that the others involved in the plot could not legally face the death penalty for his murder.
“I think the whole plan initially started out as a way for them all to make some money. But it developed into more than just making money. It became almost a game to them. A diabolical, maniacal game,” said FBI special agent Jerry Clark.
Diehl-Armstrong, who died of cancer last year aged 68, also fascinated Schroeder, who is a journalist.
“Marjorie can be abrasive and off-putting, but she is also fascinating. She is like a train wreck where you have to turn your head and look and then she keeps your attention because she is eloquent,” said Schroeder.
“She was the most fascinating female I have ever come across.”
The last episode of Evil Genius adds a reasonable clue to the so-called Pizza Bomber mystery — previously unheard testimony from a prostitute named Jessica Hoopsick.
Hoopsick claimed she became friends with Wells and developed feelings for him, despite the fact that he was also a paying client, and says she wants to resurrect his reputation and name.
She says she was paid by Diehl-Armstrong and her people to recruit an easy target for their heist plans. She says she suggested Wells.
“He had no idea what would happen to him,” Hoopsick says in the Netflix series.