When people ask me to tell them about the worst PR move, the first thing that comes to my mind is the Pepsi advertisement in 2017. I’m talking about the one, featuring the young model Kendall Jenner. In the ad, she leaves the photoshoot to join the protesters on the street. I’ve heard many people saying “What is wrong with the ad? The crowd cheers and policemen smile”. Well, this is probably what Pepsi intended to show.
The ad received a lot of backlashes, with people accusing it of trivializing and appropriating the Black Lives Matter movement. Pepsi responded by pulling the ad and issuing an apology. In my opinion, this was the worst PR move, because the company didn’t seem to understand what the problem was in the first place.
I think the main problem with the ad was that it tried to send a message of “unity” and “peace”, without acknowledging the actual struggles of the people who are protesting. It was tone-deaf and insensitive, showing how out of touch the company is.
Pepsi is not the only company to make this mistake. In 2016, Dove released an ad that showed a black woman turning into a white woman after using their soap. The ad was accused of being racist, and Dove apologized and pulled the ad.
These companies need to realize that you can’t just use social issues as a marketing tool. If you don’t have anything genuine to say, then don’t say anything at all.