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New Pepsi Ads Hit and Miss As They Try and Ride Obama's Ascension

Posted by: David Kiley on January 21, 2009


The new Pepsi ads that so clearly try to play off an otherwise capture the moment of Barack Obama’s ascendancy to the White House hit…and miss.

This is the one that I think hits. Called “Pass,” it is a series of iconic scenes of history recreated by actors, such as the 1920s flappers, the Times Square kiss on V-E Day to drag racing in the 1950s to 1960s demonstrations and streaking, disco, break dancing in the 1980s and the Berlin Wall coming down. The ad is set to The Who’s “My Generation.”

The copy: “Every generation refreshes the world. Now, it’s your turn.”

As this came on TV during various inauguration coverage, the ad felt to me like a worthy piggyback ride on the mood and images of the day. To see the ocean of people of all ages braving freezing weather on the national mall to connect to the new President’s energy and share in a community of hope, and then to segue to this ad seemed like a good and inoffensive connection to make.

Then, there is this ad.

My problem here is the direct use of the phrase, “Yes You Can.” The campaign and movement around Obama’s candidacy and presidency was a special thing to witness. Support him or not, it was remarkable to see the level of engagement, especially among youth, in his campaign. The mantra of the Obama campaign, of course, was “Yes We Can.”

Call me cranky, but I don’t think an advertiser should lift this phrase for its own use, and especially not launch the campaign right around the inauguration. This is a special time in America—difficult and historic. This ad and its language comes off as a ripoff. Not an homage, but a ripoff. And it cheapens the ad and the campaign. It makes Pepsi look crass.

The new campaign is by TBWA/Chiat Day, which also does ads for Nissan and Apple.

Reader Comments


January 21, 2009 8:04 PM

I, for one, will not longer buy any Pepsi products.

Denise Lee Yohn

January 25, 2009 7:49 PM

much to my own surprise, i don't really have a problem with this strategy.

if i understand pepsi's objectives correctly, they are trying to facilitate people's involvement in obama's movement to change (improve) the nation. this doesn't seem to be different from any other social responsibility effort we've seen from other companies -- companies try to associate their brands with the positive, complementary attributes of an organization or cause by supporting it with increased exposure and (hopefully) consumer participation -- it just so happens pepsi is doing this with the president -- while i don't mean to suggest that a new administration is the same as a non-profit, i can see why brands would want to promote his values and goals.

it would be another thing if pepsi were trying to subversively encroach on obama's campaign or make some sort of subliminal connection to the president's message of change -- instead they're being upfront and clear about their intentions -- which, i find, um, refreshing.

i also find it more substantive than, say, ikea's decorate-the-oval-office campaign -- that seems like the equivalent of putting a celebrity in an ad just to generate some buzz.


February 24, 2009 7:45 PM

I think it's a brilliant move. If something works, why not go for it? With refresheverything campaign and the new logo, I think Pepsi will outrun Coke for the first time.


August 2, 2009 12:40 AM

This is just another form of propaganda for the president. Plan on seeing a lot more like this in the future and not just from Pepsi.

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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