What really went wrong with Kendall Jenner’s controversial Pepsi ad

The Kardashian/Jenner clan isn’t new to making headlines for negative reasons. Ever since Keeping Up With the Kardashians aired, Kim Kardashian and her now equally well-known siblings have remained at the forefront of celebrity news and gossip. Whether it’s Kim Kardashian’s latest venture sparking backlash or ex-boyfriends constantly making headlines with their antics, the Kardashians are there.

But one member of her family tends to at least keep a low profile when it comes to controversy, and that’s Kendall Jenner. Kendall, Kris and Caitlyn Jenner’s eldest child, was known as the athletic one on the show as a teenager. Now a full grown model, her decision to keep her love life private and not really take the line of controversy has kept her away from major backlash. That was until she was the star of a 2017 Pepsi commercial that was deemed unmusical. And there’s a reason she’s never really lived it.

Kendall Jenner didn’t heed a crucial piece of advice from sister Kim Kardashian

In April 2017, a Pepsi commercial aired starring Kendall Jenner, showing her abruptly leaving a photoshoot to join a street protest. The highlight was when she gave a spoiled police officer a Pepsi and suddenly everything was fine.

After the 2016 presidential election and rising tensions in America, the emphasis on Black Lives Matter and the mistreatment of marginalized people was pervasive. This Pepsi commercial not only trivialized protests, but also the authorities’ abuse of power. Time wrote that an ad like this would be “misguided” anytime. But in such a climate it is “a blatant misstep”. Even Bernice King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. tweeted about the unmusical commercial. “If only daddy knew the power of #Pepsi,” she wrote. The New York Times reported that the company withdrew the ad within a day and apologized.

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The reason the controversy never really seemed to leave Jenner was because she wasn’t quick to talk about it. BuzzFeed reported that Kim Kardashian, who is often the PR mediator in the Kardashian/Jenner household, advised Kendall to speak up. “You can’t ignore it,” she said to her younger sister. “You really can’t. It’ll be fine as long as you’re honest and open.”

The Pepsi commercial followed Kendall Jenner and continued to cause her problems in 2020

BuzzFeed News reported that Kendall Jenner ignored the reaction to her Pepsi ad for half a year. Insiders told outlets how “devastated” Jenner was over the massive impact she was facing. And Kim Kardashian told Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens Live a month later that Jenner meant no harm. But since Jenner didn’t take Kardashian’s advice to nip it in the bud when it happened, but instead spoke about it during a Keeping Up With The Kardashians episode, her tearful memories and apology quickly became memeified. BuzzFeed surmised, “Had Kendall taken Kim’s advice and immediately apologized, the news cycle would have strayed from advertising.”

Fast-forwarding to 2020, during major protests against police brutality in America, a picture of Jenner in a mask holding a “Black Lives Matter” sign went viral for being treated fairly blatantly. Jenner had to tweet that the photo was photoshopped and wasn’t posted by her. BuzzFeed News reported that aside from the photoshopped sign, people were furious that Jenner would be so clueless after the Pepsi commercial. And although it wasn’t Jenner’s and she ended up doing an anti-racism post, the ghost Pepsi commercial’s past followed her and made it that much harder to pull off a good PR move.

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