ITV 50 Years of Fame: Private view - Pepsi

The first thing that springs to mind as I watch Pepsi's 1989 "Madonna" commercial is "branded content" (2). A clumsy name for something that headlines too many press articles, brainstorms and media conferences right now.

It proves the point that we are all in the business of re-invention in many ways. Okay, it's the long version of the commercial, and it is a great piece of entertainment. Set to Like a Prayer and shot in black and white, the film tells the story of Madonna as a small child making a wish and fulfilling her dreams to be a pop princess.

The story is told in synch with the music, with coloured snap shots of Pepsi signage, bottles and cans interwoven with the storyline. There is no product news, the only overt brand message being the end frame. It's entertainment, advertising and great TV all at once and no doubt it worked at the time.

Pepsi has a long history of using celebrities in its advertising and clearly it works for the brand. In 1997, it returned to female pop icons, using the Spice Girls for its Generation Next campaign (3). As with Madonna in 1989, it used a property at the height of its appeal among the people that Pepsi wanted to connect with, in this instance the "girl power" generation.

In the intervening years, we had the Pepsi taste challenge, cleverly shot real-people observation, tackling the choice issue directly and the launch commercial for Pepsi Max, "cliff jump" (1). This is the commercial that I spontaneously remember, so it certainly did a job for me. It was a clear message, a sugar free version of the product that was overtly macho male in stark contrast to the opposition's "Diet Coke break", which was for the girls.

The 2002 football World Cup execution "sumo" dialled up Pepsi's association with footballing heroes across the world, and not least David Beckham (4). An amusing story about how a group of local lads (sumo wrestlers) put the flash football stars in their place, the relevance made it work extremely well in communication terms.

By now we were in a multimedia, digital world and the idea worked well as it was expanded into an interactive TV game and further in off-screen activities.

Last year, Pepsi returned to promoting the Pepsi Max brand with "can fu" (5) and this year with "glueboy" (6). Irreverent young-male-targeted executions played on the gaming generation's take on life. They work well as pieces of entertainment, without hiding the "no sugar" product message.

Famous, celebrity-led TV advertising clearly works for Pepsi and I believe will continue to do so for brands that are as widely available and frequently consumed. ITV's own Values of Fame research shows that Pepsi scores particularly well on "connection" (how much do people like you) and "familiarity" (personal knowledge) and I would expect to see more of the strategy. That said, Pepsi's main brand gets the balance of brand and product message right relative to celebrity, with the Pepsi Max commercials providing an attractive contrast to the main brand message.

The figures bear this out as Pepsi's fame rating is towards the top of the ranking in ITV's research, higher than David Beckham himself.

By getting the right mix of entertainment and brand message across its portfolio, Pepsi has achieved the all-important goal of the brand being the message that carries through consistently. Pepsi delivers smart marketing and great entertainment.

1. PEPSI MAX Title: Cliff jump Agency: BBDO Year: 1993 2. PEPSI Title: Madonna Agency: BBDO Year: 1989 3. PEPSI Title: Spice Girls Agency: BBDO Year: 1997 4. PEPSI Title: Sumo Agency: BBDO Year: 2002 5. PEPSI MAX Title: Can fu Agency: BBDO Year: 2004 6. PEPSI MAX Title: Glueboy Agency: BBDO Year: 2005

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