Seven other TV ads that courted controversy

The "tone deaf" Kendall Jenner advert is not the first time Pepsi has landed itself in hot water

Seven other TV ads that courted controversy

Kendall Jenner in the controversial Pepsi ad [Pepsi]

An advertisement for Pepsi Cola has become just the latest in a long list of controversial marketing mishaps after being widely panned on social media.

The cringe-worthy video, which will likely be shortened for TV spots around the world, features fashion model and reality star Kendall Jenner posing for a photo shoot while protestors demonstrate... something nearby.

Bearing placards with nebulous phrases that offer no conclusion as to why these parched Millennials are marching, the ad also features supporting roles from a suggestible cellist and a frustrated Muslim photographer learning how to get her groove back.

The advert then reaches its artistic zenith as Jenner, having thrown down the trappings of the fashion world, brokers peace between the protestors and the local police by handing an officer a can of Pepsi to the delight of everyone involved.

In addition to criticisms comparing the advert to the 1999 Chemical Brothers’ music video for the song Out of Control, the advert has been described as “tone deaf” to the very real protests going on around the world these days.

It’s not the first time the creative team working on a TV ad have messed things up in the name of brand awareness. Here are seven other TV advertisements that courted controversy...


A 2013 spoof advert for the like-it-or-loathe-it spread found few people on the liking it side, after hundreds of complaints were made to the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority.

The advert, featuring narration from the BBC broadcaster Michael Buerk, parodies a team of welfare officers as they pay visits to homes to recovered neglected Marmite jars “stuck right at the back” of kitchen presses.

Viewers complained that the advert mocked the hard work carried out by the RSPCA, which the animal welfare group responding that it understood why “animal lovers are concerned on our behalf.”

Irish Cancer Society

The Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland upheld complaints made against the Irish Cancer Society’s controversial ‘I want to get cancer’ campaign at the end of 2016.

The slogan, which appeared on billboards, in print ads, and on television, was first teased without any reference to who was making the statement, later revealed to be cancer researchers and medical professionals trying to ‘get cancer’ before it ‘gets you.’

The ASAI upheld complaints that the slogan was “offensive, disrespectful and upsetting to cancer survivors, current sufferers, bereaved families and those who may currently be undergoing tests or waiting on the results of same.”


A 2014 advert for the sausage and rasher producer had to be hastily re-edited after it showed a driving grandfather momentarily taking his eyes off the road to sneak a quick look at his new baby granddaughter after picking her up at the airport.

A viewer made a complaint to the ASAI, arguing that the ad showed hazardous driving and was similar to a message relayed in the Road Safety Authority’s TV advert ‘Don’t lose a lifetime looking back’.


A still used by the ASAI showing the hazardous driving seen in the ad

Despite the Kerry Group’s rebuttal that the advert had been shot on a quiet country road and that the car had not been travelling more than 30km/h, the ASAI upheld the complaint. In the subsequent edit, the footage was flipped over to make it appear that the grandfather was in the front passenger seat.


A 2005 TV advert for the chicken fast food restaurant’s ‘Zinger Crunch Salad’ was once the most-complained-about advert ever to grace the airwaves across the Irish Seas.

Nearly 1,700 people complained about the ad, featuring three women working in an emergency call centre singing while with their mouths full of the lunch meal.

Most of the complaints expressed concern that the advert would encourage children to develop bad manners, particularly speaking with their mouths full. Other complaints levelled against the ad claimed it encouraged a risk of choking, showed call centres in a bad light, or mocked people with speech and hearing impediments.

Although the complaints were not upheld, KFC apologised for the offence caused and vowed never to run the advert again.


Before KFC’s singing salad eaters, a TV advert featuring a man ‘vomiting’ up a live dog was the most complained about on British TV, with the 30-second spot ultimately pulled from screens.

Wrigley’s decided to withdraw the advert for its ‘Xcite Mints’ after more than 700 complaints were made against it to the Independent Television Commission.

The advert features a man who has collapsed on a couch, retching and spewing out a wet, hairy dog as a metaphor for his bad breath the morning after the night before.

“Parents have been complaining that their children were scared by it, and some of the adults said they were actually sick themselves after watching it,” and ITC spokesperson said at the time.


A 2016 advert, hoping to hop on the bandwagon of the film Pitch Perfect, was banned after it invited members of the public to use a tin of beans as a percussion instrument while singing a special song.

The advert showed families, workers, and festival goers enjoying the beans, and then using the empty tin cans to play a beat. Nine complaints that the advert, which had already been viewed more than 1.6m times online, posed a health-and-safety hazard were upheld by the ASA in the UK.

Heinz reacted to the controversy by arguing the ‘Can Song’ advert included social media instructions on how to prepare empty cans for the musical event, such as taping off the sharp ends to avoid cut hands.

“Although we acknowledge the ASA decision, the TV campaign is over and we have no plans to run it against,” a Kraft Heinz spokesperson said after it was canned.

Pepsi, again

In 1989, the cola brand courted controversy for the first time when it famously paid Madonna $5m to perform her iconic Like a Prayer song in a two minute song.

The advert was considered such an intriguing property that it was reported on before its broadcast on ITN’s News at Ten, with ITV also running trailers saying when the ad would broadcast – 8.12pm on Thursday, March 2nd, 1989.

But two days before it was even shown, Pepsi pulled the ad after influential church groups in the US threatened a mass boycott of the drinks brand because of Madonna’s provocative use of religious iconography.

The advert showed the Material Girl watching a home video of her own birthday party when she was eight, before swapping places with herself. The girl Madonna strolls through the singer’s apartment, drinking Pepsi, while the grown one sings Like a Prayer.

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