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.”
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" pic.twitter.com/yYwu4GtIbZ
— Mansoureh منصوره (@Mansourehmi) April 5, 2017
“Pepsi would’ve made the Arab Spring revolutions a lot more loving and less violent,” another user tweeted.
Pepsi would've made the Arab Spring revolutions a lot more loving and less violent pic.twitter.com/FkSMzhykGC
— Khaled Beydoun (@KhaledBeydoun) April 5, 2017
Another user sighed “if only the Arab spring had Pepsi cola.”
if only the Arab spring had Pepsi cola
— sky (@space_blues) April 5, 2017
“Tiananmen Square and the Arab Spring should’ve never happened if they had Kendall Jenner and a can of @pepsi,” one Twitter user surmised.
Tiananmen Square and the Arab Spring should've never happened if they had Kendall Jenner and a can of .@pepsi.
— Albert Pacino (@KanyeAdobada) April 5, 2017
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)