Nivea and Pepsi Pull Controversial Ads after Receiving Social Media Backlash

Earlier this week, Pepsi released a controversial advertisement featuring socialite/model Kendall Jenner. Additionally, the ad for the global brand included a group of people marching with signs decked out with the Pepsi logo, a Skip Marley song, and police in riot gear on the sidelines. Therein lies the problem.

The ad for Pepsi’s “Live for the Moment Now” strategy was directly appropriating a movement that is currently happening. It makes light of the protests happening around the country where protestors fight for their equal rights and justice for the black and brown lives who have been taken too soon by law enforcement. In the commercial, Jenner approaches the police with Pepsi and they all live in harmony. It is a stark contrast from how peaceful protests typically play out. With brutal force, people are beaten, hit with pellets, pepper sprayed, and arrested for acting out their rights. Where does the commercial seem to highlight that reality at?

Suffice to say, the general public response to the commercial was outrage. Most people felt that it was directly insensitive and indirectly inconsiderate, especially to a generation who live these moments of social and racial injustices in the here and now.

Following the backlash, Pepsi initially stood behind the controversial ad and released this statement:

“The creative showcases a moment of unity, and a point where multiple storylines converge in the final advert. It depicts various groups of people embracing a spontaneous moment, and showcasing Pepsi’s brand rallying cry to ‘Live For Now,’ in an exploration of what that truly means to live life unbounded, unfiltered and uninhibited.”

But, after enduring much more of the public’s unrest, Pepsi started singing a different tune. The beverage brand decided to retract the commercial advert and issue a statement to EBONY relaying their regret:

“Pepsi was trying to project a global a message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”

It was just last week that the German beauty and personal care brand Nivea released a controversial ad of their own. The deodorant ad posted to the company’s official Facebook page (since deleted) was an effort to target Middle Eastern consumers. The problem with it was the slogan more than anything else. “WHITE IS PURITY” reads in blue letters at the bottom of the ad with the caption, “Keep it clean, keep bright. Don’t let anything ruin it, #Invisible.”

The ad immediately received tons of scrutiny, backlash, and media attention for its blatant slogan that leaned towards a narrative of white supremacy. In fact, an article written by The Daily Mail even highlighted one enthusiastic Facebook user, Political Memes With an Edgy Theme, who wrote, “We enthusiastically support this new direction your company is taking. I’m glad we can all agree that #WhiteIsPurity.”

This week, a spokesperson for Nivea’s parent company apologized for the ad in a statement to The Washington Post:

“That image was inappropriate and not reflective of our values as a company. We deeply apologize for that and have removed the post,” the statement read. “Diversity and inclusivity are crucial values of NIVEA. We take pride in creating products that promote beauty in all forms. Discrimination of any kind is simply not acceptable to us as a company, as employees, or as individuals.”

Both ads have since been pulled.

Our opinions have more power than ever before, especially with the rise and increasing prevalence of social media. If it wasn’t for the honest truth and voices of independent thinkers, two strides towards more inclusive, diverse, and careful planning when it comes to what advertisers put out into the world wouldn’t have been made. These are lessons to you Nivea and Pepsi. Hopefully, other advertisers will follow suit.

Photo Credit: iSTOCK

Sheriden Chanel is a twenty-something writer, Beyoncé enthusiast, and lover of all things visual art. Keep up with her and her musings on social via @indiebyline.