“I’ve thought about it a lot because I looked at the ad again and again and again trying to figure out what went wrong — because it was a peace march not a protest march,” Indra Nooyi recently told Fortune’s Beth Kowitt. “It was people in happiness coming together.”
The ad in question debuted in April and featured reality star and model Jenner marching with a group of people holding signs bearing feel-good messages like “join the conversation” and “love.”
Walking through the group, Jenner grabs a Pepsi and hands it to a stone-faced police officer watching the protest. He breaks into a smile, and the crowd cheers. The screen reads: “Live bolder. Live louder. Live for now.”
Nooyi, who has been PepsiCo’s CEO since 2006, said she realised that the final scene, featuring Jenner and the policeman, caused the most controversy as it “linked back to Black Lives Matter.”
The ad immediately sparked backlash, with people saying it was tone deaf and co-opted imagery from a Black Lives Matter protest.
The commercial was pulled a day after being released, with PepsiCo apologizing and saying it did not intend to “make light of any serious issue.”
“This has pained me a lot because this company is known for diversity, and the fact that everybody who produced the commercial and approved the commercial did not link it to Black Lives Matter made me scratch my head,” Nooyi told Fortune. “I had not seen that scene. And I take everything personally.”
“The minute I saw people upset, I pulled it,” she continued. “And you know what, it’s not worth it. There were people on both sides, but at the end of the day, our goal is not to offend anybody.”
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