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)


Lebanon’s journalists suffer abuse, threats covering unrest

Updated 07 December 2019

Lebanon’s journalists suffer abuse, threats covering unrest

  • The deteriorating situation for journalists in Lebanon comes despite its decades-old reputation for being an island of free press in the Arab world

BEIRUT: Lebanese journalists are facing threats and wide-ranging harassment in their work — including verbal insults and physical attacks, even death threats — while reporting on nearly 50 days of anti-government protests, despite Lebanon’s reputation as a haven for free speech in a troubled region.
Nationwide demonstrations erupted on Oct. 17 over a plunging economy. They quickly grew into calls for sweeping aside Lebanon’s entire ruling elite. Local media outlets — some of which represent the sectarian interests protesters are looking to overthrow — are now largely seen as pro- or anti-protests, with some journalists feeling pressured to leave their workplaces over disagreements about media coverage.
The deteriorating situation for journalists in Lebanon comes despite its decades-old reputation for being an island of free press in the Arab world. Amid Lebanon’s divided politics, media staff have usually had wide range to freely express their opinions, unlike in other countries in the region where the state stifles the media.
The acts of harassment began early in the protests. MTV television reporter Nawal Berry was attacked in central Beirut in the first days of the demonstrations by supporters of the militant group Hezbollah and its allies. They smashed the camera, robbed the microphone she was holding, spat on her and kicked her in the leg.
“How is it possible that a journalist today goes to report and gets subjected to beating and humiliation? Where are we? Lebanon is the country of freedoms and democracy,” Berry said.
Outlets like MTV are widely seen as backing protesters’ demands that Lebanon’s sectarian political system be completely overturned to end decades of corruption and mismanagement.
Rival TV stations and newspapers portray the unrest — which led to the Cabinet’s resignation over a month ago — as playing into the hands of alleged plots to undermine Hezbollah and its allies. Many of those outlets are run by Hezbollah, President Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement and the Amal Movement of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. These media regularly blast protesters for closing roads and using other civil disobedience tactics, describing them as “bandits.”
For Berry, the media environment worsened as the unrest continued. On the night of Nov. 24, while she was covering clashes between protesters and Hezbollah and Amal supporters on a central road in Beirut, supporters of the Shiite groups chased her into a building. She hid there until police came and escorted her out.
“I was doing my job and will continue to do so. I have passed through worse periods and was able to overcome them,” said Berry, who added she is taking a short break from working because of what she passed through recently.
Hezbollah supporters also targeted Dima Sadek, who resigned last month as an anchorwoman at LBC TV. She blamed Hezbollah supporters for robbing her smartphone while she was filming protests, and said the harassment was followed by insulting and threatening phone calls to her mother, who suffered a stroke as a result of the stress.
“I have taken a decision (to be part of the protests) and I am following it. I have been waiting for this moment all my life and I have always been against the political, sectarian and corrupt system in Lebanon,” said Sadek, a harsh critic of Hezbollah, adding that she has been subjected to cyberbullying for the past four years.
“I know very well that this will have repercussions on my personal and professional life. I will go to the end no matter what the price is,” Sadek said shortly after taking part in a demonstration in central Beirut.
Protesters have also targeted journalists reporting with what are seen as pro-government outlets. OTV station workers briefly removed their logos from equipment while covering on the demonstrations to avoid verbal and physical abuse. The station is run by supporters of Aoun’s FPM.
“The protest movement has turned our lives upside down,” said OTV journalist Rima Hamdan, who during one of her reports slapped a man on his hand after he pointed his middle finger at her. She said the station’s logo “is our identity even though sometimes we had to remove it for our own safety.”
Television reporters with Hezbollah’s Al-Manar and Amal’s NBN channels were also attacked in a town near Beirut, when they were covering the closure of the highway linking the capital city with southern Lebanon by protesters. In a video, an NBN correspondent is seen being attacked, while troops and policemen stand nearby without intervening.
“This happens a lot in Lebanon because some media organizations are politicized. No one sees media organizations as they are but sees them as representing the political group that owns them,” said Ayman Mhanna, director of the Beirut-based media watchdog group SKeyes.
“The biggest problem regarding these violations is that there is no punishment,” Mhanna said. Authorities usually fail to act even when they identify those behind attacks on journalists, he added.
Coverage of the protests also led to several journalists resigning from one of Lebanon’s most prominent newspapers, Al-Akhbar, which is seen as close to Hezbollah, and the pan-Arab TV station Al-Mayadeen, which aligns closely with the policies of Iran, Syria and Venezuela.
Joy Slim, who quit as culture writer at Al-Akhbar after more than five years, said she did so after being “disappointed” with the daily’s coverage of the demonstrations. She released a video widely circulated on social media that ridiculed those who accuse the protesters of being American agents.
Sami Kleib, a prominent Lebanese journalist with a wide following around the Middle East, resigned from Al-Mayadeen last month. He said the reason behind his move was that he was “closer to the people than the authorities.”
“The Lebanese media is similar to politics in Lebanon where there is division between two axes: One that supports the idea of conspiracy theory, and another that fully backs the protest movement with its advantages and disadvantages,” Kleib said.