Fox's The X Factor is supposed to be about the future of music. But Pepsi, one of its major corporate partners, takes a long, nostalgic journey through the past—showcasing a bunch of its old pop-star commercials—in its first big brand spot touting its connection to the program.
The 60-second ad, which broke Wednesday night during the show's premiere, was done by TBWA\Chiat\Day (and director Joe Pytka), but all of the archival creative on display is from Pepsi's previous agency, BBDO. The ad opens backstage on the X Factor set, where a contestant in a dark hoodie is preparing to take the stage. He picks up a can of Pepsi, takes a swig, then stares at the logo. The logo, of course, isn't the classic one of old—and in fact represents Pepsi's attempt to reinvent itself visually and leave the past behind. Nevertheless, it sends our hero tumbling into a daydream full of Pepsi's pop stars of yore—as the viewer is whisked through footage from those old ads. First, we see Michael Jackson hopping about in his black flats and bejeweled socks. He's followed by four other Pepsi (or Diet Pepsi) drinkers—Ray Charles, Britney Spears, Kanye West and Mariah Carey. Extended scenes with each singer are followed by a quick montage of all five, before we return to The X Factor contestant, who, confident and inspired, walks up to the microphone to perform. "Who's next?" asks the on-screen text, above The X Factor logo. Then we get the Pepsi logo and the on-screen line, "Where there's Pepsi, there's music."
Thematically, the spot is seamless. Pepsi really is wondering who's next, having promised the winner of The X Factor a starring role in a Super Bowl commercial this winter. This makes up for the fact that much of the old footage looks so dated—it's quite grainy looking in parts—and doesn't exactly scream cutting edge.
The bigger problem, ironically, is the spot's soundtrack. From beginning to end, it features a Pepsi-exclusive remix of the song "Tonight Is the Night" by Outasight, an artist newly signed to Warner Bros. Records. The song is fairly unremarkable. It never gets out of second gear, and by putting it over the footage of the other artists, it saps those performances of their original energy—and puts them at an emotional remove. The result is a commercial that doesn't deliver enough of the inspirational feeling that so moves its main character after he contemplates the superstars.
So, it's a mixed bag. If it were a contestant on The X Factor, it wouldn't be a sure thing to move on to the next round.
Spot: "Music Icons"
Agency: TBWA\Chiat\Day, Los Angeles
(Historical spots created by BBDO)
Chief Creative Officer: Rob Schwartz
Group Creative Director: Brett Craig
Creative Directors: Xanthe Hohalek, Marlon Hernandez
Art Directors: Kristina Krkljus, Chris MacNeil
Copywriter: Armando Samuels
Executive Producers: Anh-Thu Le, Mila Davis
Senior Producer: Nancy Sanders
Assistant Producer: Stephanie Dziczek
Managing Director: Bill Brooks
Group Account Director: Mike Litwin
Account Director: Tara Mellett
Management Supervisor: Ellie Brigden
Account Executive: Kali Cushing
Director of Business Affairs: Linda Daubson
Business Affairs Manager: Laura Drabkin
Production Company: Pytka
Director: Joe Pytka
Executive Producer: Tara Fitzpatrick
Producer: Vincent Joliet
Director of Photography: Joe Pytka
Editorial Company: Venice Beach Editorial
Executive Producer: Hunter Conner
Editor: Chris Davis
Assistant Editor: Daniel Reitzenstein
Visual FX: The Mill
Executive Producer: Sue Troyan
Post Producer: Melanie Wickham
Sound Mix: Play
Executive Producer: Lauren Cascio
Mixer: John Bolen
Music: Outasight, "Tonight Is the Night"