Fact Check

9/11 Pepsi Can

Photograph shows a Pepsi can from Iraq with an illustration reminiscent of the 9/11 attacks?

Published Dec 17, 2011


Claim:   Photograph shows a Pepsi can with an illustration reminiscent of the 9/11 attacks.


Example:   [Collected on Facebook, December 2011]

FB family I need your help, so today while in Iraq shutting down one of the bases there ironically enough I stumbled upon this can of diet pepsi. Take a close look at the picture and tell me the first thought that comes to your mind. Mine and many other of my brother in arms was not a pleasant one so I just want to make sure we re not bias. If you see the same thing I did, I will never ever buy another Pepsi product again, this is an insult. Thank you for your feedback and participation.


Origins:   The photograph displayed above is a genuine picture of a can of Diet Pepsi manufactured in Dubai by Pepsi Arabia (and available, among other markets, to U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan. However, the illustration was intended to represent the Dubai skyline and doesn't possess much more than a passing resemblance to the scene of the 9/11 attacks in New York City, so the claim that it demonstrates some intentional disrespect on the part of Pepsi Arabia is unfounded.

The depicted scene features a road leading to a city skyline which has two similar (but not identical) tall buildings, with other shorter buildings between them in the foreground, and an airplane flying above (not within) the scene. All in all, it looks to be nothing more than a generic representation of a big city, with nothing specific tying it to the 9/11 attacks other than its inclusion of ordinary images of skyscrapers and an airplane. In fact, the can design was based on the Dubai skyline (with its distinctive pointed skyscrapers):

We understand that the design of the can be misinterpreted, which was never our intention. The design is one of two Diet Pepsi cans designed for our Middle East/Africa region, which was created by a South African design agency to display the growth of active cities in that region.

Pepsi themselves told us that:

We understand from some of our consumers that a Diet Pepsi can designed and sold in the Middle East portraying the growth of active regional cities has been misinterpreted. We are sorry that some people found this design insensitive, which was never our intention as the graphics on this can were inspired by the Dubai skyline. As soon as this matter was brought to our attention in October, we immediately stopped production of the can and took action to change the design. The new can, which features an abstract design, is already in the Middle East market. All old designs will be replaced over the next few weeks.

Consumers have at other times perceived unusual or even offensive messages in innocuous graphics. In 2007, the label on AriZona's Southern Style Sweet Tea drew criticism for purportedly celebrating slavery via an image which some interpreted as one of a black "mammy" standing in the driveway of a plantation house owned by a white couple. Similarly, consumers have also "found" 9/11 images in other products and advertisements, one such example occurring in 2002, when Starbucks chose to remove from its stores a poster touting its TazoCitrus drinks because some people interpreted its image of a dragonfly's approaching two frosty drinks as reminiscent of the attack on the World Trade Center towers.

Last updated:   19 December 2011


    Forbes, Tricia.   "Consumers Upset Over Image on Pepsi Can."

    WAFF [Huntsville, AL].   19 December 2011.

    WTOP [Washington, DC].   "Pepsi to 'Change' Can Design Some Say Depicts 9/11."

    19 December 2011.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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