Pepsi’s ‘It’s the Cola’ Effort Set for Sunday Debut

NEW YORK As part of its new positioning as the “alpha” cola, the one that enhances the taste of food and the enjoyment of social occasions, Pepsi-Cola is breaking a campaign for its flagship brand on Sunday, the client said.

Tagged “Pepsi. It’s the cola,” the work from longtime agency BBDO in New York will be in heavy rotation on TV and radio as well as in outdoor media, said Pepsi chief marketing officer Dave Burwick.

Media spending in the fourth quarter of 2003 will be “significantly higher” than last year because of the new goes-well-with-food strategy and the holiday timing of the campaign’s release, he said.

The Purchase, N.Y., client spent $20 million in the fourth quarter of 2002 on brand Pepsi, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Burwick would not comment on how much higher the spend would be for this quarter. Pepsi spent $120 million on the brand in 2002 and $100 million through August 2003.

Three spots will begin running Sunday. The first to run will likely be an execution called “Tailgaiting,” in which fans barbecuing in the parking lot before a football game behave as if they are players. A male voiceover dramatically describes the ritual as that of “bold warriors [who] meet in a quest for glory.” Slow-motion shots of hot dogs being caught in buns and bottles of Pepsi spiraling through the air like footballs complete the metaphor.

In another commercial, comedian Dave Chappelle meets a woman at her house for a date. While he waits, a robotic vacuum cleaner enters the room and Chappelle begins feeding it potato chips. When he taunts the machine with some Pepsi, it chases him, inhaling the trousers off his body. Standing in his boxer shorts, he explains, “There was nothing I could do,” as he takes a nonchalant sip of Pepsi.

The third spot shows a college-age woman dressed as a hot dog, trying to hand out fliers to the local “Wiener World.” Dejected, she tosses the fliers into a trashcan when she spots a cute guy dressed as a Pepsi can. As Blind Melon’s song “No Rain” plays, the two greet each other and walk away together.

Each spot portrays the food and social occasion strategy a little differently, said Ted Sann, chief creative officer of BBDO North America, an Omnicom Group shop. Unlike the last “Joy of Pepsi” campaign, this effort has no unifying music theme or jingle. “We’ve always gone back and forth,” Sann said of Pepsi’s use of a music jingle in its advertising over the years. “We felt that it worked this way better” for this strategy.

The work is the first under the stewardship of BBDO executive creative director Don Schneider, an art director who had partnered for years on Pepsi with Michael Patti. Patti joined WPP Group’s Young & Rubicam in the beginning of this year [Adweek, Feb. 10].

Although Schneider has not yet named a regular creative partner, executive creative director Bill Bruce, the top BBDO creative on Pepsi’s Mountain Dew and Sierra Mist brands, was Schneider’s interim partner on the campaign.

The campaign also includes a heavy radio and outdoor component. Client executives said outdoor spending was also increased, but not at the expense of other media. The outdoor work shows glasses of iced Pepsi being “sought” by foods. For example, one has a sandwich wrap embracing a glass of the cola; another shows a pizza pie with a slice missing to form a “mouth” with which the pizza wants a sip of Pepsi.

The radio campaign tries to convey that Pepsi “owns” lunchtime, Schneider said, with humorous anecdotes about the history of lunch.

Pepsi’s main rival, Coca-Cola, is preparing to break the next leg of its “Real” campaign in the first quarter via WPP Group’s Berlin Cameron/Red Cell.