OPINION: Pepsi’s antics show ads are a point of difference

What is it that makes the cola war such an endlessly fascinating phenomena?

What is it that makes the cola war such an endlessly fascinating


On a rational level there’s nothing to choose between Pepsi and Coke,

two reasonably palatable fizzy thirst quenchers with little discernible

difference in taste.

But since when did rationality and logic have anything to do with the

sales battle that has locked the two multinational leviathans in

constant struggle?

Now, Pepsi’s festering frustration at playing perpetual second fiddle to

Coke has translated into a marketing offensive of mind-blowing

proportions (Campaign, last week). Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer,

Andre Agassi, even the supersonic Concorde, are the central features of

a dollars 500 million Europe-wide campaign.

And all so that Pepsi can put distance between itself and its great

rival by laying claim to the colour blue.

Any newly landed Martian might be forgiven for wondering whether the

drinks pedlars have taken leave of their senses and whether the average

punter cares a fig about the hue of his cola can.

Those a bit closer to earth know different. Pepsi’s brave gamble sets

the stage for a titanic contest that will show just how important

advertising can be in determining the success - or lack of it - of

almost identical brands.

It’s not only that most colas taste the same. New cars have reached

standards of engineering excellence that make them almost

indistinguishable. Airlines transport their passengers in ‘flying tubes’

in which cabin service varies little. What has catapulted companies like

British Airways ahead of the chasing pack has been the quality and

memorability of their advertising.

The result of so much product parity has been that now, more than ever,

we know the measure of the difference that outstanding advertising can


In the end, it may be that advertising will emerge as the true winner.