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Beef Of The Week #350: Pepsi v Something, I Guess

By | Published on Friday 7 April 2017

Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad

Right, so obviously the beef of this week is this whole thing with that Pepsi advert. I mean, what were they even thinking? How did that get past every single person involved without anyone demanding it be stopped before it was made public? The idea was so clearly bad and the backlash so easily foreseen, you start to wonder if generating outrage was the intent from the off.

If you haven’t seen it, here’s a basic synopsis: Some young attractive people are marching in protest against, I don’t know, something. Their placards mainly just say “join the conversation”, which seems like a weird thing to march for, especially given that no one is talking. Some of them are carrying musical instrument cases, I’m not sure if this is relevant. No one plays any instruments on the march. Just like no one talks. They all just walk around looking like happy young, attractive, mostly white people.

One of the protesters sees Kendall Jenner on a photo shoot and wordlessly beckons her to join in. Realising this is a great opportunity to get ‘young attractive people things’ on the agenda, she does so without question. The march is stopped by a wall of police, so Jenner walks forward and hands a Pepsi to one of the policemen. He drinks it, smiles, and the crowd cheers. The oppression of young attractive people is over. At last.

Everyone involved attempted to defend their advert that reduced protest movements and recent controversies around policing in the US into a sugary canned liquid push, despite it clearly being a terrible idea from conception to realisation. Jenner even said she was “THRILLED”, though she later changed her chosen adjective to “devastated”. Then eventually Pepsi withdrew the ad, saying that it “did not intend to make light of any serious issue”. Though the only specific issue it addressed in its apology was “putting Kendall Jenner in this position”, which I’m not sure is what made so many people angry.

So that’s that. As I said at the beginning, this is definitely the beef of the week. The only problem is, it isn’t really music news. Kendall Jenner is not a musician. I don’t think she is anyway. To be honest, I’m not really sure who she is. I realise that’s quite an ‘old person’ thing to say, but it’s generally a good indicator that someone isn’t involved in music if I don’t know who they are. I am terribly, terribly old, that’s true, but I am also so immersed in this stupid music industry that I don’t really know who anyone outside of it is. Email me some names, I’m sure I’ll recognise none of them.

I’ve written five fucking paragraphs about all this now though, so I’d better get on with crowbarring something vaguely musical into this non-music beef of the week, otherwise I’ll be outside my remit and my paymasters will be very upset. They’ll probably start marching in protest against my writing. I put in that bit about the instrument cases, that’ll do right? What, no? Fuck.

Ah, phew, the Chemical Brothers have already turned in a parody of the advert, so everything’s fine. They’re quick off the mark, those boys. So quick off the mark that they actually put their parody out into the world nearly 20 years ago.

In the 1999 video for ‘Out Of Control’, starring Rosario Dawson, what initially appears to be a protest – with young attractive marchers facing off against the police – turns out to be a soft drink commercial. So, well done to them for getting that bit of satire in before the world went totally stupid. Although this is all so strange that the teeth-clenched conspiracy theorist in me is now wondering if this is actually an incredibly elaborate promotional campaign for a Chemical Brothers ‘best of’ compilation.

Of course it’s not. You’d never put ‘Out Of Control’ on a Chemical Brothers ‘best of’. And also, several of those involved don’t seem to be in on the gag.

In a statement to Fader, the video’s director Wiz said: “The original inspiration for my Chemical Brothers film came from The Clash lyric: ‘Huh, you think it’s funny turning rebellion into money’, crystallising a deep felt anger that when it comes to the profit margin, absolutely nothing is sacred, not even heartfelt expressions for social justice. We made this film in 1999, however today the inevitable has materialised: it’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy”.

He continued: “If you were ever in doubt about the carnivorous nature of advertising, then this Pepsi ‘spot’ says it all. It so insults everyone’s intelligence that it’s disturbing, what is this culture that we choose to live in that engenders such naked cynicism, is advertising the pornography of capitalism? Vanillarising our expressions of outrage, cashing in on the very frustrations that this system creates. Right now big business is laughing, clutching our hard earned dollar and hard earned dignity all the way to the bank. Our love, our sweat, our beauty is being sold back to us, two for the price of one”.

Rosario Dawson also tweeted that the Pepsi advert was “eerily reminiscent” of the ‘Out Of Control’ video but “sadly minus the point”. The Chemical Brothers themselves just used the opportunity to promote the original video, which brings us back to my ‘best of’ conspiracy again. GUYS! I’M KIDDING! Although they did do that.

Anyway, that’s enough crowbarring, right? This is totally a music story now. I can do more, if you want. I mean, if you want references to Pepsi adverts looking a bit like other things, how about that time they cast David Bowie and Tina Turner in a bad rip off of ‘Weird Science’? I’m not even making that up, that’s a thing that happened. And learning about it is probably the most upsetting part of this whole story.