Pepsi Experiment Gathers Momentum

Rapper Scarface ponders materialism in rap music. Rocker Andrew WK describes his musical style. In between are videos and commercials—and every spot is for Pepsi brands. In addition, the DJ hosts sprinkle Pepsi’s name throughout.

This is Project X, a 30-minute experiment in reaching the notoriously elusive Gen Y demo through local rather than national outlets. The program was created by marketing firm Synergy for Pepsi, which launched the pilot show in April in Washington and will roll it out during the next few months across the U.S.

Project X originally was hosted by DJs from Washington-area Infinity radio stations WHFS and WPGC. The stations’ call letters and IDs appeared on the show, which aired on Tribune Broadcasting WB affiliate WBDC. In addition, the DJs plugged Project X on their radio shows.

Mitch Litvak, president of The LA Office, an entertainment-consulting firm in Los Angeles, said Project X goes a step beyond branded-entertainment efforts such as the Coca-Cola-sponsored WB series Young Americans and the Fox show Murder in Small Town X. Taco Bell was the key sponsor in the latter show, with some scenes shot in a Taco Bell restaurant.

“It’s a step above product placement,” said Litvak. “The risks are much greater, but the return for something that really works is much greater, too.” But one risk is that the audience “knows when they’re being marketed to, and they almost resent it,” he said.

Spending was undisclosed, but the show costs 60 percent less than a traditional media buy, claimed John Baer, president and cd for Alexandria, Va.-based Synergy.

Pepsi reps declined comment.