What Really Went Wrong With Kendall Jenner's Controversial Pepsi Commercial

The Kardashian/Jenner clan is not new to making headlines for negative reasons. Ever since "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" started airing, Kim Kardashian and her now-equally well-known siblings stay at the forefront of celebrity news and gossip. Whether it's Kim Kardashian's newest venture stirring up backlash or exes that continuously make news for their antics, the Kardashians are around.

But one member of their family tends to keep a lower profile at least when it comes to controversies and that's Kendall Jenner. The oldest child of Kris and Caitlyn Jenner, Kendall was known as the athletic one while a teen on the show. Now she's a full-blown model and her choices to keep her love life private and not really toe the line of controversy has kept her away from big backlash. That was until she was the star of a 2017 Pepsi commercial that was deemed tone deaf. And there's a reason why she's never really lived it down.

Kendall Jenner didn't follow one crucial piece of advice from sister, Kim Kardashian

In April 2017, a Pepsi commercial starring Kendall Jenner aired and it showed her abruptly leave a photoshoot to join a protest happening in the street. The kicker was when she handed a Pepsi to a grimacing police officer, and suddenly all was right in the world.

After the 2016 presidential election and growing tension in America, the emphasis on Black Lives Matter and the mistreatment of marginalized people was ever present. What this Pepsi commercial did was trivialize not only protests but also the abuse of power that authorities have. Time wrote that an ad like this at any time would be "misguided." But in such a climate, it's "a glaring misstep." Even Bernice King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., tweeted about the tone deaf commercial. "If only Daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi," she wrote. The New York Times reported that it was within a day that the company pulled the ad and apologized.

The reason, though, that the controversy never seemed to really leave Jenner's side was because she wasn't quick to speak on it. BuzzFeed reported that Kim Kardashian, who is often the PR mediator in the Kardashian/Jenner household, advised Kendall to speak on it. "You can't ignore it," she told her younger sister. "You really can't. It will be OK as long as you're honest and open."

The Pepsi commercial followed Kendall Jenner and continued causing issues for her in 2020

BuzzFeed News reported that Kendall Jenner ignored the backlash that came with her Pepsi ad for half a year. Insiders told outlets how "devastated" Jenner was over the massive repercussions she was facing. And Kim Kardashian told Andy Cohen on "Watch What Happens Live" a month later that there was no bad intention on Jenner's part. But with Jenner not taking Kardashian's advice to nip it in the bud when it happened, but the time she spoke on it during a "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" episode, her tearful recollection and apology were quickly meme-ified. BuzzFeed conjectured that "had Kendall followed Kim's advice and immediately apologized, the news cycle would have moved on from the commercial."

Fast-forward to 2020 during major anti-police-violence protests in America, an image of Jenner, in a mask, holding a "Black Lives Matter" sign went viral because it was pretty obviously doctored. Jenner had to tweet out that the photo was photoshopped and wasn't something that she posted. BuzzFeed News reported other than the photoshopped sign, people were angry that Jenner would be so clueless after the Pepsi commercial. And even though it wasn't from Jenner, and she did end up posting an anti-racism post, the ghost Pepsi commercial's past followed her and made it that much harder to pull a good PR move.