A new ad from a consumer activist group is taking aim at Pepsi's sourcing practices by spoofing one of the soft drink company's most famous commercials—Cindy Crawford's roadside gas station spot from the 1992 Super Bowl.
In the parody, created by nonprofit SumOfUs, a svelte brunette pulls up to a small town fueling station. Two young boys playing catch in a nearby yard stop and gape as she struts—in a tight white tanktop and cutoff shorts—to the vending machine, grabs a Crystal Pepsi and proceeds to chug it.
The similarities to the original end there, as the scene takes a fast downward spiral into disturbing territory.
Instead of fresh, clear Crystal Pepsi, a viscous yellow-brown substance oozes out of the upturned bottle and onto the Crawford stand-in's face. Unfazed, she lets the sludge run down her body, face contorted in grotesque ecstasy, while her admirers gag in horror.
Here's the original Cindy Crawford Pepsi ad, so you can compare and contrast:
The parody ad went live ahead of last Monday's limited re-release of Crystal Pepsi, a caffeine-free, translucent beverage that was en vogue in the early '90s—assuming it ever really was. Crystal Pepsi existed for just a year, but has since built a nostalgic cult following. (In an attempt to stoke the flames of our memories, its relaunch campaign will include "The Crystal Pepsi Trail," an online game inspired by "The Oregon Trail.")
The ingredient at fault here is palm oil, which plays a role in a wide range of consumer products, from foods to cosmetics. More at issue are the beverage company's palm oil suppliers, which SumOfUs claims destroy rain forests to make way for farms, exploiting workers in Indonesia—a major low-wage producer with inadequate safety regulations—and facilitating the extinction of animals like orangutans, tigers and elephants.
It's a familiar set of complaints, and not PepsiCo's first time facing such critiques. Last year, SumOfUs launched a similar parody ad mocking Doritos, which also uses palm oil. The brand—also owned by PepsiCo—dismissed the gag as fiction, insisting it is "absolutely committed to 100 percent sustainable palm oil in 2015 and to zero deforestation in our activities and sourcing."
If it seems random that the activist group—which also targets companies like Apple, Delta and Zara for various other issues—would choose an almost 25-year-old commercial as the foil for its message, it's worth noting that Pepsi recently revived the Crawford ad, with a twist for millennials—recasting humans as emoji on giant ambulatory bottles:
As off-putting and contrived as the final result of the new parody is, it effectively draws a line between some of Pepsi's more iconic branding, and a visceral sense of disgust about the product—substantive or not. Whether it's more unpleasant than watching James Corden stuff himself into Crawford's classic outfit is a different question altogether.