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Pepsi's New Ad Fails to Hit the Spot
By: Jeff Louis
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Coke_vs._PepsiRemember the days when Coke and Pepsi went head-to-head and were unashamed and unafraid to show the other's brand in a commercial?

Ah, the Cola Wars. They featured an endless tide of celebrity spokespeople -- Tina Turner, David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Madonna, Paula Abdul, Elton John, and others -- choosing one brand over the other. "The Pepsi Challenge" took this a step further, as the stars chose Pepsi over Coke. 

More from the days of yore include:

  • Memorable taglines from Coke ("It's the Real Thing") and Pepsi ("The Choice of a New Generation").
  • John Belushi's "Cheezborger, Cheezeborger" skit on "Saturday Night Live" in which he quipped, "No Coke! Pepsi!"
  • Coke’s reintroduction of their original formula, Coca-Cola Classic, after the failures of New Coke.
  • The successful Pepsi Stuff promotion, which allowed consumers to redeem points online and win, uh, stuff.
"Drink Pepsi, Get Stuff" was so successful it spilled into PepsiCo's Mountain Dew product and international markets.

If the new Pepsi spot, "Pepsi Max Diner 2pointZero," is any indication, Pepsi is re-engaging their former combatant Coke. Unfortunately, the new spot basically serves an updated rip-off of an old Pepsi spot from their former agency. It's not very imaginative and hardly the type of spot to rekindle an on-air competition between brands.

Pepsi’s original brand spot, “Coke vs. Pepsi," aired in the mid-'90s. Depicting two truck drivers from the soft drink companies who meet in an isolated diner, it was unique because Pepsi featured Coke in their commercial.

The spot opens as a Pepsi truck pulls into a diner. The Pepsi driver walks in and eyes the driver from Coke. The two sit near one another at the counter; exchange glances, a few words, and smiles; and then shake hands after realizing they’re basically the same people on opposite sides. They eventually share their drinks, and violence erupts when the Coke driver won’t give up his Pepsi.

The “new” spot is essentially the same as the 15-year-old version, and except for a creative moment when the Pepsi driver takes a video of the Coke driver chugging a Pepsi Max. Obviously, it is old hat.

Compounding Pepsi's lackluster effort, the two products, while calorie-free, aren't similar. Pepsi Max offers twice the caffeine and adds Ginseng to the mix. Coke Zero tastes similar to Coke, whereas Pepsi Max doesn’t seem to carry the same flavor as Pepsi, according to my palate.

If this is truly a rekindling of "The Cola Wars," Pepsi may want to rethink their strategy. The U.S. currently is embroiled in two actual wars, and both have been subjected to much negative sentiment. 

Much has changed in the last 15 years, so it would seem wise to acknowledge this and change the creative. Let the past rest in the past.


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About the Author

Jeff Louis: Media Planner, Brand Project Manager, blogger, and aspiring writer. Please leave a comment or get in touch with Jeff on Twitter. As always, thank you for reading!

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