Got that pepsi feeling? You won’t be able to avoid it.
In a bid to rebuild its ailing cola franchise, the soft-drink giant is readying a big-budget, epic ad campaign themed “Feel the Pepsi” that aims to recapture the flavor of the iconic “Catch That Pepsi Spirit” ads of the late 1970s.
The spots seek to forge a new bond with consumers and remind them of “the Pepsi feeling, imagery and icon,” said an executive who attended the company’s annual convention last month where the ads were unveiled to bottlers. Spending details weren’t discussed, but it’s likely the outsize campaign could receive up to $50 million. It’s also anticipated that at least one of the commercials will end up showing during the Super Bowl.
To put the push into historical context, the company trotted out Alan Pottasch-the father of the “Pepsi Generation” and the company’s former senior VP-worldwide creative-to present to bottlers a video retrospective of the marketer’s greatest ad campaigns and explain “what that meant culturally,” the attendee said.
The retrospective introduced the coming effort, which encompasses at least five spots from Omnicom Group’s BBDO, New York, including an anthem commercial that one attendee said has an “inclusive” tone that evokes an emotional tug similar to Coca-Cola’s original “Hilltop” spot. Mr. Pottasch didn’t return calls for comment, and the agency referred calls to Pepsi, which said it isn’t ready to discuss its strategy.
Although none of the attendees wanted to give away too many details, they described the push as sweeping, expressing a feeling of exuberance and vitality, with a visual emphasis on Pepsi’s globe logo to make the orb iconic again. Another 15-second spot stars the globe being chased by a crowd of screaming girls like a 1960s pop star.
Clearly that idea is wishful thinking as Pepsi-Cola is chasing consumers rather than vice versa. In the first half of 2006, Pepsi-Cola’s U.S. volume plunged 7.2%, while Coca-Cola Classic fell 4.9% in grocery, drug and mass merchandisers excluding Wal-Mart, according to combined AC Nielsen/Information Resources data published by Beverage Digest. Their diet versions were also down 4.7% and 4.9%, respectively.
Pepsi’s Diet Mountain Dew was the only brand in the top 10 to grow volume and was up 4.1%. In 2005, cola-weary consumers drove Pepsi-Cola down 3.2%, further than Coke Classic’s 2% drop in all channels. Coke and Pepsi are “in a vortex” of industry trends, said Tom Pirko, president of BevMark, noting that company executives are torn between the conflicting demands of supporting their declining soda brands and driving growth of noncarbonated, coffee and energy drinks younger consumers crave.
Pepsi is expected to share its plans to change that trend during its first investor day in at least three years Oct. 23, when CEO Indra Nooyi gives her first presentation to Wall Street as company chief.
In the meantime, the company declined to comment on its successor to the “It’s the Cola” campaign launched in late 2003 that positioned Pepsi as an accompaniment to a variety of foods. “We have a lot of exciting innovation and marketing planned, which we’ll announce soon,” a spokeswoman said.
Also among its plans: resurrecting its famed “Pepsi Challenge” with a print push to support Pepsi One, a Splenda-sweetened, one-calorie cola. An ad in the Oct. 16 issue of People boasts “Pepsi Won” to tout that the brand beat Coca-Cola Co.’s Diet Coke with Splenda in a national taste test. “Try the taste people prefer,” is the copyline. In addition to a planned caramel cream flavor for its Pepsi Jazz diet brand, Pepsi in November will introduce Sierra Mist Cranberry Splash for the holiday season.