Business / News

Recent ‘insensitive’ ads fuel backlash on social media

Pepsi Jenner

A recent controversial ad featured Kendall Jenner handing a Pepsi to a police officer, but many found it insensitive because it appeared to make light of the Black Lives Matter movement. (photo source: YouTube video)

Shontay Morgan & Isaiah Small

(Buffalo, N.Y.) — A number of recent advertisements deemed to be insensitive, most notably from Shea Moisture and Pepsi, have fueled backlash and criticism, especially on social media.

The Shea Moisture ad featured two white women and one woman who appeared to be mixed race talking about the sensitive topic of “hair hate.”

The company was founded by an African-American woman and has a strong and loyal following in the black community, and many viewed the ad as moving away from its customer base.

Shea Moisture pulled the ad and apologized after customers took to social media with the hashtag #AllHairMatters to show their disapproval.

“Wow, okay – so guys, listen, we really f-ed this one up. Please know that our intention was not – and would never be – to disrespect our community, and as such, we are pulling this piece immediately because it does not represent what we intended to communicate,” the company said in a Facebook post.

Dr. Seth Oyer, assistant professor of public communications at Buffalo State and an expert in crisis communication, appeared on the The Buffalo Review May 1 to discuss the recent ad controversies.

Oyer said Shea Moisture could have attempted to reach out to new customers with a different approach.

They should have said “‘we are really doing well, thanks to our loyal customers and now we want to extend this to other types of people so that they can enjoy the same type of things that you do,'” according to Oyer.

“Sort of make that more of a ‘hey we’re here because of you’ as opposed to the perception of, ‘now we’re moving on from you to this other customer base.’”

Additionally, Pepsi got a similar response after it released an ad featuring Kendall Jenner, which seemed to make light of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The ad showed Jenner giving a police officer a Pepsi, which appeared to many to oversimplify recent concerns regarding police relations and create a world of unity, peace and understanding with one can of soda.

“It seemed to be tone-deaf in terms of appropriating Black Lives Matter,” said Oyer.

However, he said advertising companies never mean to offend people intentionally. “There’s no question in my mind that men and women who put it together, filmed it, staged it and edited; I’m sure that they had their best intentions in mind,” said Oyer.

“Just the advent of 24-seven communication and of course social media and so on, it can be challenging because of consumers or as what we say in public relations, ‘publics,’ are a lot more savvy to some of these things.”

He said it is often difficult for companies to employ a celebrity spokesperson, which may have also fueled criticism of Pepsi, because of public perception of the Kardashian and Jenner families.

“You’re trying to have this transference of their success to your brand,” said Oyer.

Pepsi also pulled the ad and apologized, which further highlights the challenges advertisers face when different people from different backgrounds become offended.

* Shaniya Graham, Daina Richards and Joseph Kasko contributed to this report.


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