Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi Commercial: the Untold Story
A peek inside the boardroom when Pepsi’s creative team came up with the idea that started it all…
Ad man in suit #1: Okay guys, it’s about time to get started. Grab your sandwiches and Cokes and find your seats. Today we’re brainstorming our Kendall Jenner Spring ’17 campaign. Remember there are no bad ideas. Truly. Everything is a good idea.
Woman: Well, Kendall is passionate about photography. What if we showed her getting behind the lens and giving the spotlight to women she admi-
Ad man #2: Resistance.
Room explodes in cheers.
Woman: Sorry what?
Ad man #2: Millennials love resistance.
Ad man #1: Yes, resistance. (Man tips glasses down and peers at his list of keywords pulled from Millennial OpEds.) And expressing themselves authentically.
Ad man #3: Yes! Love it.
Woman: I’m sorry, can you be more specific?
Ad man #2: Imagine a protest. (Man takes sip of Coke Zero) People laughing, screen full of protest joy. Posters in beautiful Pepsi blue. City kids dancing and stuff.
Ad man #4: (Looks up from Post-it note left on his notebook from last meeting) Diversity.
Ad man #1: What?
Ad man #4: I’m not sure. This Post-it just says “diversity.”
Ad man #1: We’ll just put that on the casting call sheet, it will be fine.
Woman: Are you worried about commodifying something like the act protest? And, I don’t know, systemic oppression? I’m no expert but…I don’t know, just a thought.
Ad man #2: A cold open of a man playing a cello on a roof, an American city in the background.
The men in the room get chills.
Cut to him playing his cello in a room. The protest will be happening on the street. He’ll stop playing, take a sip of Pepsi and then join the march, where he’ll see Kendall Jenner looking super sexy and they’ll fall in love.
Ad man #1: Hmmm, I like where this is going. How can we fit in more diverse millennials expressing themselves…(looks down at list again)…with no filter?
Room falls silent for several minutes.
Ad man #2: A photographer. In hijab.
Room erupts in a standing ovation. Ad man #2 stands on table and shotguns a Coke.
It’s her passion. But she just can’t get her shot. So she joins the protest for inspiration, where she sees a very photogenic and beautiful Kendall Jenner, marching her activist little heart out. In a thong? Or is that too much? Woman?
Woman: I’m so sorry — what is this protest about exactly?
Ad man #3: Yes! And she should be blonde!
Ad man #1: Her contract stipulates that we not touch her hair.
Everyone around the table looks sad. They love blondes.
Ad man #2. A wig. That she’s wearing for a photoshoot happening nearby because she’s a model. She sexily tears it off before joining the protest.
Ad man #3: That’s it! And lipstick that she wipes off, all dramatic. And maybe a dress that she takes off?
There is cheering and high-fiving as they imagine it.
Woman: Taking lipstick off actually takes like, a full minute and it’s pretty messy…and wigs don’t really-
Ad man #1: (Looking at requirement sheet) We need more people drinking Pepsi in this spot or we’re gonna get in trouble again.
Ad man #2: An ice bucket. At the protest. I think I have a spare one at home from a barbecue last weekend.
Ad man #5: Can we have protest spectators sitting at nice restaurants drinking Pepsi?
Woman: Sorry. What’s a “protest spectator?”
Ad man #1: The other thing is blue. We need everything to be the same shade of blue. Don’t ask, it’s subliminal.
Ad man #2: Beautiful. So we have a cello player, a photographer and a model joining a fun and passionate protest.
Woman: Again — a protest about what, exactly?
Ad man #1: About joining the conversation! And Pepsi.
Ad man #2: This is literally almost perfect. I just can’t help but feel like we should somehow loop in the whole police brutality thing.
Woman: The “whole police brutality thing?”
Ad man #3: You’re so right. That’s such a thing, huh? When it comes to protests and stuff?
Man of color #1: I don’t know. Don’t want to overstep here, but maybe we steer clear of this. Unless we want to genuinely give a platform to one of the organizations tackling this…
Ad man #2: Kendall hands a cop a Pepsi. He cracks it, takes a sip….and smiles. The entire march celebrates.
Ad man #3: And that’s when the Muslim photographer gets her shot!!!!
One man starts to clap, then a few more. Slowly it builds until all the men in the room are clapping and crying vigorously. In a rare show of emotion, they begin hugging each other in congratulations.
Ad man #1: I think our work here is done.
Six months later…
Photos by Victor Virgile and Lambert via Getty Images; Collage by Edith Young.