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Kendall Jenner Ad Made People Like Pepsi More, Poll Says

Emily Stewart

There might be hope for United after all -- Pepsi's Kendall Jenner ad made people like the brand better.

Nearly half of respondents to a new Morning Consult poll say the commercial, which Pepsi pulled after it sparked major backlash on social media, gave them a more favorable view of the beverage giant. Only 25% said it gave them a less favorable view, and 28% said it had no impact either way. Moreover, Republicans were more turned off by the ad than Democrats. In other words, internet anger might not always be an accurate reflection of consumer sentiment.

The ad, debuted on April 4, features 21-year-old model Jenner diffusing a protest reminiscent of the Black Lives Matter movement by offering a police officer a Pepsi. She walks through a diverse crowd of protesters to hand the officer a drink.

Pepsi pulled the ad from the airwaves a day after it was released after receiving fierce criticism online that it was insensitive and politically tone-deaf. Saturday Night Live ran a behind-the-scenes sketch parody of the ad over the weekend.

The Morning Consult poll reveals the ad actually played relatively well with consumers. More than half of respondents age 18-44 said it gave them a more favorable view of the brand, while older consumers seemed less impressed, with about 37% saying it had improved their impressions.

Three-quarters of Hispanic respondents and 51% of black respondents said it made them like Pepsi more; 41% of whites said it improved their view.

Perhaps most surprisingly, right-leaning respondents disliked the commercial more than those leaning left -- 29% of Republicans said it gave them a less-favorable view of Pepsi compared to 23% of Democrats.

Morning Consult surveyed 2,202 American adults from April 6-9, and the poll has a 2% margin of error.

As to whether the ad might hurt Pepsi's bottom line, the survey results seem to indicate the answer is no. Forty-five percent of respondents said it didn't affect whether they'll buy Pepsi products, while 32% said it made them more likely to buy and 23% less likely. Among the coveted 18-29-year-old age group, 39% said it made them more likely to buy Pepsi.

Shares of Pepsi are up about 1.5% since the day the ad hit the airwaves.

Jenner, who rose to stardom on "Keeping Up with the Kardashians," has maintained a low profile since the ad's release, but the Morning Consult poll shows it hasn't been detrimental to her image, either. About a quarter of respondents said it made them like her more, and about the same amount said it made them like her less. The rest said it had no effect or they had no opinion.

Pepsi apologized to Jenner and consumers after it pulled the ad. "Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are removing the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position," it said in a statement.

Despite evidence the ad didn't tank Pepsi with consumers, it's probably best that the company pulled the ad from the airwaves, Sam Huxley, executive at communications firm Levick, told Morning Consult. Some consumers were turned off by it, and "no brand wants to be the butt of the joke," he said regarding the SNL skit.

Maybe the evidence will help Pepsi marketers -- and United Airlines execs, and even Press Secretary Sean Spicer -- sleep a bit better at night over their recent PR gaffes.

Editors' pick: Originally published April 13.

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