Stop Comparing That Pepsi Ad With The United Controversy, Assholes

Photo: New York Magazine/Natural News
Kendall Jenner Pepsi Ad and United Airlines Assault

Blood on hands for United. Bad taste in the mouth for Pepsi. Two VERY DIFFERENT things.

More than ever lately, I’ve been lurking. On Facebook. Where I used to be very in, I’m now finding myself more and more out. Every so often, I post something about a current event but mostly, I’ve found it hard to jump into the fray.

Because there are so goddamn many frays lately.

I mean, opinions are like assholes and everyone has one but in the last few months, if our opinions became assholes, we’d become a string of orifices held together with, probably, some off-brand invisible tape and someone’s old gum.

What a time to be alive, assholes.

I admit, I count myself as one of those assholes here and there, opining before I’m really sure I've done my homework. However, I’ll re-opine if I get new information and, I really, really, really believe in knowing what’s a mountain and what’s just a molehill.

So, this week, when I saw people lumping Pepsi in with United Airlines, well, hi, Fray, here I am.

If you somehow haven’t been hit by the Viral Bus of Anger in the last week or so, here are the deals.

Pepsi released a commercial — overly long at 1 minute and 51 seconds — showing a visual panoply of Things to Be Resisted: police violence, racism, sexism, paper being set on fire and burning near some diverse and multicultural young people. And Kendall Jenner was so riveted by the ISSUES that she takes off a blonde wig (symbol of evil, I guess?), puts on some horrid patchwork jeans that do nothing for her ass and fixes everything by giving a cop a Pepsi.


It's exploitative and weird in too many ways to list. If Coke wanted to teach the world to sing, Pepsi was, like, let’s teach the world to blithely strut by all its problems and, with a half-smile, trade tear gas for a tasty beverage.

United, meanwhile, forcibly and bloodily removed a passenger from a flight to Louisville from Chicago's O'Hare Airport. The man was selected to leave his flight, overbooked as per the norm for airlines (which are, by the way, turning record profits while charging for more and more presumably basic amenities), so that four crew members could get to work in Louisville the next day.

Before having police drag the man off the plane, United offered vouchers to passengers but no one wanted the $800 to delay their travel another day.

United could have upped the price. (Everyone has one, right?) The airline could have assumed that every passenger had boarded that plane to see their dying mother and said, "Okay, we have to respect our paying customers' wishes to get where they need to go. That is why we are in business."

They could have put their employees on another flight (even a — gasp! — competitor’s flight. There were other Louisville flights out of O'Hare or Chicago’s Midway that day; I checked). The employees could have been paid overtime and driven to Louisville in a rent-a-van for an awkward co-worker road trip.

United said "No".

Instead, it had police drag a kicking and screaming man from the plane while passengers watched and recorded the incident on their phones. Apparently, this was the right thing to do.

The wrong thing to do is be a customer who says no to your corporate overlords.

Blood on hands for United. Bad taste in the mouth for Pepsi. Two VERY DIFFERENT things, if you ask me.

The Pepsi ad campaign, while idiotic, was not unexpected. Earlier this year, Saturday Night Live practically predicted the Pepsi commercial when it did a (kind of unfunny) example of politicized ad pitches. The skit revolved around increasingly "relevant" issues-driven pitches for Cheetos commercials, and there was a lot of truth to it, unfunny or not.

In our "everything is political" times, every brand wants to be seen as taking a stand, as long as that stand resonates with the money and social media profiles of the Next Generation. (Sorry, Pepsi, not sorry.)

Here’s the thing: You can ignore the "message" of an ad. (With video streaming, I now ignore ads altogether, if not for the Fray.) But why would you put any stock in a message ad, seeing as the bottom-line truth to any advertisement is solely to sell a product?

Selling is what ads are for — all they're really for, if you peel away the rest — and the Pepsi ad, even if it had turned out well, means no more to its out-of-touch, overwhelmingly Rich White Manned Board of Directors way than it does the focus groups who said it looked good so they could pocket their $75 for the day.

There’s also the question of, when did we start taking anything Kendall Jenner does seriously? That’s not even meant to be offensive. She seems nice enough and actually used to volunteer for, um, Meals on Wheels.

But, yes, she's a celebrity who figured she'd take the money and run after her agents told her this was a great idea for her brand. Ideally, this teaches her to do her homework, but let's not put all the fault on her slender shoulders, either. The ad was made because someone, somewhere thought it looked "heroic" and like it would pop the top on Pepsi claiming some Coke market share.

Money corrupts, and Pepsi should take some of its remaining dollars to hire a better agency. That's the whole of the issue, if you ask me.

But the United news is horrid, not only for the incident itself but that somewhere, telling you that you can't fly because of their error is a policy.

Not only to drag you from a flight, which is the most egregious abuse of a passenger who trusted you to get him safely to his destination, but for a company to have essentially written that its time and money is more important than yours, than all of ours, what with overselling flights and policies like this.

We've all been through delays and hassles and uncontrollable weather, etc, and know it's part-and-parcel of air travel. But, here we had an airline that had no takers willing to wait a day for the $800 credit. The default should be a simple if/then statement. If no takers, then assume the customers have just as much reason to get to their destination as your employees do.

Pay for your mistakes; don’t make your passengers do it.

It's not an isolated incident, even if the violence is. The physical assault is just an extension of the way the airline thinks of each of us, its potential passengers; just bodies to fill seats until they don't want us or need us to. The demands for better should be loud and manifold.

And, while we are all entitled to jump into the fray over a bad ad, let’s make sure to remember that the best way to be a smart consumer is to pay most attention not to what a company SAYS but what it DOES.

After all, in ITS ads, United promised to help you "fly the friendly skies."

Ha. I think I'd rather jump. (Not into the fray again; I hope to avoid it here for a while.)