Representation and Interpretation – Pepsi

Representation and Interpretation – Pepsi

For some, these images may just look like Kendall Jenner handing a police officer a Pepsi. You may see her surrounded by friends, having a laugh. Maybe you aren’t able to see anything wrong.

The truth is, there is something deeply wrong with these images. Start by comparing them to the photos below.

Another simple offering handed to police officers. Only this time, it isn’t met with the same reaction. The woman is taken away. This is the reality.

Kendall Jenner starred in a Pepsi ad, first aired in 2017, that went viral, but not for a good reason. The ad depicted Jenner defusing a protest situation by handing a police officer a Pepsi, after witnessing the protest from a photoshoot. The ad was released at a particularly hostile time in American politics. Black Lives Matter protests were in full swing across the nation and people had a range of opinions on the issue. It was poor form of the company, and Kendall Jenner for agreeing to star in the ad. After much opposition from people across the world, the ad was removed from distribution after just one day.

The Black Lives Matter movement is incredibly important, in America, and here in Australia. It brings awareness to horrific and unjustified deaths of so many black people by police and civilians. In America, in 2012, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed after a man thought he looked suspicious walking through the neighbourhood of relatives he was visiting. In 2014, Eric Garner was selling cigarettes on the street when he was put in a chokehold (against NYPD protocol). He yelled out “I can’t breathe” multiple times until he became unconscious and later died.

In Australia, Ms Dhu, a Yamatji woman, was arrested for unpaid fines after calling police on her partner who was violating an AVO. She died in custody 2 days later after multiple complaints of poor health were ignored or overlooked by supervising officers. Sadly, this is just a small example of hundreds of similar deaths.

It is understandable however, that many would not see anything wrong with Pepsi’s ad. They may not be up-to-date with the political climate of the United States. They could be unaware of the sadness and anger surrounding the deaths of so many, innocent black people from gun violence and the poor judgement, or even prejudice, of the country’s police. Maybe they are opposed to the Black Lives Matter movement, maybe they’re a police officer.

This is where the theme of this week’s blog post comes in. Interpretation and representation. Without background knowledge, or with our own preconceived opinions on certain topics, we may not be aware of an issue with a certain topic or action that may have a major impact on another community of people. Everyone will interpret this ad and group of photos in a different way. It can start a discussion or debate, but education is the key to understanding, empathy and action.


Kendall Jenner –

Black Lives Matter Rally, Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA –

4 thoughts on “Representation and Interpretation – Pepsi

  1. I really like how you’ve used this image as an example of representation and interpretation! I know a lot of people who didn’t see anything wrong with the Pepsi commercial, because they didn’t know what it was referring to or representing and I think you’ve discussed that very well. Your post emphasises the importance of having background knowledge in order to make proper commentary on and issue. I think your post also outlines the importance that content creators and companies consider the implications and harm that ads like these can bring to the community from their poor judgement. Great work Abbey!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Abbey, this blog post is outstanding.
    You have pin pointed the illusion behind an image and how us as an audience interpret images without little knowledge.
    You have highlighted the fact that Pepsi made the wrong decision to post this advertisement as this topic is a real-life issue. Some people, as you stated, may look at this image and find nothing wrong with it, that is because of their lack of interpretation to this image.
    You discussed this topic very well, I am very excited to read more of your posts. You have a very distinct writing style that intrigues me. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think that the view point on audience’s interaction with images is true. Particularly in this instance, the Black Lives Matter movement was central in the media when this image came out, which heavily impacted on the way that people saw this image, provoking a reaction. I think this really begs the question, If the political and social climate of the time wasn’t where it is at the time of release, would the reaction to the campaign be as strong? In answering, I think perhaps not. This question really depicts the core of media audience as it is heavily influenced by the background, cultural context and social setting of the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This was an interesting take on interpretation and representation. I like how you’ve shown a comparison of the images you’ve chosen; it really gives this post depth. The Pepsi ad was most definitely a controversial topic when it aired, and you’ve summed it up quite nicely on why and how it has been perceived differently based on the individuals experience on the matter. I’ll be honest when the ad was first released, I hadn’t even seen it until after the immediate backlash had occurred and it’s quite sad to see Pepsi trying to take advantage of Jenner’s popularity and the events taking place at that time to sell their soda. Whether it was their intention or not, they should have known better.

    Liked by 1 person

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