Ad Space – The Pepsi All-Star Musical Extravaganza

You are now entering Ad Space, a realm of commercials, brought before us so we might examine how they work, and discuss why we both love and hate them so. So it is written …

The Product:

The Promotion:

The Pitch:
Here’s a bunch of stuff you like, and also Pepsi. Ergo, you like Pepsi now.

Last week, I highlighted a classic Coca-Cola commercial, discussing just how well executed it was … then I dunked on a Pepsi ad that tried the same thing and whiffed hard.

To show I’m not taking sides in the Cola Wars, this week I’d like to give attention to a Pepsi commercial that’s genuinely terrific. This epic length Superbowl ad is just a smorgasbord of stuff to love. You’ve got:

  1. Not one, not two, but three mega-popular singers
  2. Wearing sexy outfits
  3. Performing a beloved classic rock anthem
  4. In a giant, lavishly rendered set
  5. While delivering a powerful but vaguely defined “fight the power” message

‘Bout the only thing missing is a reason to drink Pepsi.

Yeah, this is one of those ads that’s so focused on the spectacle and the star power, it never gets around to actually talking up the product. But here, I think that works, because this isn’t a commercial as we normally understand the term. No, this is product placement.

Like when a movie will have the superhero fly through an iHop mid-fight scene, or when a TV show will have the characters all inexplicably use Bing as their favored search engine (and even try to make “I Binged it” a thing). It’s all about taking a piece of entertainment and slipping your product in there, so that whatever positive feelings people have about the program they enjoyed, some of that will rub off on whatever you’re selling.

Only thing that makes this different is that, instead of paying a film studio to display Pepsi cans in their latest picture, Pepsi went ahead and made their own music video, just so they could place their product in it.

But because it was presented to people as a commercial, rather than as a music video, it got judged by different standards. People who would normally balk at such blatant product placement, deplore it sullying the artistic process … what are they gonna do here? Complain that this commercial is too commercial?

By setting the expectation that this short film is all about selling Pepsi, and then delivering an all-star music video that happens to feature Pepsi, they get the benefits of high-profile product placement, without any derision. And all it cost them was … God, do I want to know how much this thing must’ve cost?