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Pepsi steals Christmas

Our modern image of Santa Claus—jolly, fat man in a red suit—is the direct result of 80 years of Coca-Cola advertising. Pepsi’s marketing people know this, and they assume you know it too. And so, in a total Grinch move, Pepsi has abducted Santa Claus, spirited him away from the North Pole, and released him in the middle of a beach party.

Watch:

(Direct link to the video on YouTube.)

(Update: Also watch Pepsi’s polar bear commercial!)

This 30-second spot, which started airing this week as part of a big TV buy, kicks off a new campaign by TBWA/Chiat/Day. The tagline is, “Summer Time is Pepsi Time.” An article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday suggested that the campaign was behind schedule, quoting impatient bottlers and saying Pepsi was “still racing” to make it ready.

In the ad, Santa, partying with Mrs. Claus and the elves at the beach, goes up to the bar for a drink. He declines the bartender’s offer of a couple of Cokes, and asks for Pepsi instead. It’s risky to portray Santa this way, since nobody wants to think of the Jolly Old Elf as some kind of douchebag who insists on a particular brand of cola. Fortunately, the ad writers diffuse any concerns by making Santa seem secretive and playful about his request. “I’m on vacation! I’m having fun!,” he says, before making a shush sign. He probably would have been fine with a Coke, but why not get a Pepsi and live a little? Nice touch.

So far so good, but I really hate the elves at the end. Maybe an exception is warranted for actors portraying Santa’s helpers, but I find it icky when little people are cast for laughs.

* * * *

Coke and Pepsi are fascinating brands. They’re selling us essentially the same sugar water, available everywhere at identical price points, which means their main point of differentiation is marketing. Together, the two companies spent over $400 million on U.S. soda advertising last year. As the also-ran brand (now in third place!), Pepsi advertises itself as a youthful, rebellious alternative. Pepsi has a history of running ads that mention and show its market-leading competitor by name, painting Coca Cola as a stodgy drink for fogies. Coke rarely (never?) acknowledges Pepsi exists, because it’s a giant steamroller of a branding machine that lets no pipsqueak competitor stand in its way. Open happiness!

The craziest thing about Pepsi’s “Santa Dancing” ad is that Coke began its Santa advertising because cola was so closely associated with summer, and they wanted to sell more of it in winter. Now Pepsi is using Coca-Cola’s iconic Santa image to tell customers to drink cola in the summer.

Oh yeah, and this campaign comes just before a price increase for Pepsi products. Ebenezer Scrooge would be proud!

* * * *

What’s the song is in this commercial?

Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It.”

Who created this ad?

Agency: TBWA/Chiat/Day

Who signed off on it?

Massimo d’Amore, PepsiCo global beverage chief

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Advertising, Television

9 comments

  1. Maria says:

    ALL THE SODA DRINKS ARE BAD!!! THEY ARE LOADED WITH HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, WHICH WHEN THE HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP REACHES YOUR BRAIN IT CAUSES YOU TO CRAVE MORE JUNK FOOD AND AFTER YOU EAT AN HOUR LATER YOU ARE HUNGRY AGAIN!!! THIS IS WHAT HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP IS DOING TO YOUR BRAIN!!! AMERICA PLEASE WAKE UP!!! THIS IS WHY AMERICA IS FAT!!! THE HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP IS A FORM OF MIND CONTROL SO YOU WILL EAT MORE JUNK FOOD, FOOD, FOOD!!! I CHALLENGE EVERYONE TO START EATING ORGANIC WHOLE FOODS AND DRINKS I GUARANTEE YOU WILL LOSE 10LBS WITHOUT EVEN TRYING IN THE FIRST 4 TO 6 WEEKS!!! AND I PROMISE YOU WILL STOP CRAVING JUNK FOOD!!!

    • critter says:

      oh will you give a rest you can drink anything and still eat more junk food. no all soda drinks are bad. you over exgruting

  2. B. Lindsey says:

    Why is this man impersonating Santa?

    • Maria says:

      Obviously you have not done your homework on the subject of HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP!!! ALL the SODA industries KNOW exactly what they are doing including ALL the BREAD companies as well… Except for Nature’s Own and the bread products sold at Whole Food’s – Why do you think Nature’s Own Bread has a “Banner” on their packaging saying “NO HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP” or Hunt’s ketchup has a banner on their bottle of ketchup that says “NO HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP” because they are on to what the other food industries are doing to the American people to make them eat more of their junk food and drink more of their junk sodas!!! Plus “HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP” is THE NUMBER ONE REASON THAT CAUSES DIABETES!!! (MSG) MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE does the same thing as “HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP” it is twice as bad when both products are a part of the ingredients which over 75% of the foods have both ingredients!!! I challenge you to read “The Weight Lost Cure” by Kevin Trudeau… And start shopping at Whole Food’s!!! You will tell a difference in a few short weeks – I promise you!!!

      • leslie says:

        Hey Maria,

        Open your blind eyes and realize this is not a weight loss article, it’s about branding and creativity. I hope Whole Foods is endorsing you for all your hype about thier over-priced, unneccessary products. Take your rant elsewhere to people who want to hear it.

  3. James says:

    Here’s a thought, why don’t you go buy a sense of humor on e-bay. It’s a freaking joke commercial for a corporate product, not an attempt to slander or libel someone. When the Budweiser frog commercials came out did you complain that Budweiser made all frogs look like alcoholics?

    • angela says:

      High fructrose corn syrup has been around for years… and will still be here when we are all gone.. This is just a funny commercial. I am a dedicated Coke person but I love the Pepsi ad!!

      At least Santa isnt smoking or drinking alcohol in the commercial..

      So give it a rest….

  4. angela says:

    p.s. and the corn syrup is not the main cause of diabetes, it is call genetics.. You can starve yourself to death and be 80 pounds and if you have a family member with it, you will 95% of the time have it anyway…

  5. angela says:

    Hmm.. i think my brain is telling me…. to go get another Coke.. Now it is telling me that I am craving a hamburger/high fructose corn syrup burger with artery clogging french fries.. MMMMM MMMMM!!!!

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