Pepsi-Cola’s ad campaign pivoting on the idea that Barack Obama will refresh the nation might tempt some Republicans to agree that things go better with Coke.
Pepsi’s ad thrust, including a redesigned corporate emblem reminiscent of an Obama campaign logo, seems tantamount to an endorsement of the president-elect. It focuses largely on Obama’s mantra of promoting change.
Ironically, change is exactly what the American Family Association (AFA) is demanding from Pepsi, through the conservative group’s boycott because of the company’s donations to gay rights issues.
The PepsiCo ad campaign, which debuted on New Year’s Eve, funnels people who visit its corporate Web site to its “Refresh Everything” promotion.
Unlike Coca-Cola’s nonpolitical 1929 campaign trumpeting the “Pause that Refreshes,” Pepsi’s “Refresh” crusade encourages people to “speak your mind as a new President prepares to refresh the nation.” It invites people to send an inaugural message to Obama via a YouTube video.
“Help us refresh America,” the video option says. “You can sing, dance, tell a joke — whatever reflects your hope and optimism for the future . . . The best and most popular videos will be featured on this site.”
The pitch isn’t popular with the AFA, which has its own message for the food conglomerate: “Pepsi should remember to remain neutral in cultural wars and quit making million-dollar donations to groups that support the homosexual agenda,” the AFA’s Tim Wildmon tells Newsmax.
“It’s also a little early to ‘anoint’ a person as the savior of the country before he’s even had his first day in office,” says Wildmon, president of AFA and its radio arm, American Family Radio, and son of its founding father, the Rev. Donald Wildmon.
Pepsi says the “Refresh” campaign is a logical promotion to kick off a new year, when people look for a fresh start. But a spokeswoman acknowledges its convenient dovetailing with the inauguration Tuesday in Washington, where the company will sell Pepsi products and souvenirs.
“The inauguration is a unique moment in time when people of all ages and backgrounds are rallying around a common sense of purpose,” Nicole Bradley, spokeswoman for Pepsi-Cola North America, told CNSNews.com.
“They are embracing change and hope,” Bradley said. “We believe the positive messages of our ‘Refresh Everything’ campaign fit perfectly with the bipartisan spirit of optimism of this event.”
The diversified food company also is running ads in several cities, including New York and Washington, featuring catchwords such as “Optimism,” “Yes You Can,” “Change,” “Together,” and “One for All,” echoing slogans from the Obama campaign. The redesigned Pepsi logo and the “O’s” in its ads also are starkly similar to those featured in Obama campaign ads.
The promotional focus on Obama leaves the AFA’s Wildmon asking, “I wonder if Pepsi’s ever done anything like that for any other president . . . It shows they’re partisan.
“I hope people consider that when they go out to buy a Coke or a Pepsi or other soft drink,” Wildmon tells Newsmax.
The AFA launched its Pepsi boycott Jan. 9, saying the company “refused a request by AFA to remain neutral in the culture war.”
During the past two years, PepsiCo contributed $500,000 to the Human Rights Campaign and $500,000 to Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, the AFA says.
“The $1,000,000 was to be used to help promote homosexuality in the workplace,” the AFA proclaims on its Web site. “Pepsi refuses to give money to any pro-family organization that opposes the homosexual agenda. Plus, every homosexual organization we know of is overwhelmingly pro-abortion.”
Even as the AFA pushes PepsiCo to be apolitical, others wonder whether the food behemoth’s promotional campaign is politically motivated or just politically convenient.
Robert Knight, an author and media analyst, told CNSNews.com: “I think, given the effectiveness of Obama’s message, Pepsi is merely getting aboard the bandwagon and trying to capitalize on the good feeling — that a new era of optimism has arrived.
“I don’t know that Pepsi is particularly interested in currying favor with the Obama administration as much as it is conveying the notion that they’re on a winning team,” Knight said.
On the other hand, acknowledging the AFA boycott, Knight said Pepsi might be thumbing its nose at those who didn’t vote for Obama.
“If Pepsi is willing to buck a consumer boycott with a known base of millions of people, they’re probably willing to risk a backlash from Republicans who may decide to drink Coke instead,” Knight told CNSNews.com. “But that would show a corporate arrogance that may come back to haunt them.”
The media analyst also noted that many companies have backpedaled from activist support to take neutral stances on controversial issues.
As for Coke, its slogans often have reflected the times.
For example, in 1906, its slogan was “The Great National Temperance.”
In 1945, it was: “Whenever you hear ‘Have a Coke,’ you hear the voice of America.”
The theme song for 1971 was: “I'd like to buy the world a Coke.”
And, of course, Coke’s 1986 campaign almost had a patriotic rhyme to it: “Red White & You.” But that promotion was a political mea culpa for ditching its old formula for “new Coke” the year before, according to a Web site that features a timeline of Coca-Cola advertising.
The public popped its cork, demanding the return of the original brew. In what many suspect could have been a marketing ploy all along, the company revived the original, anointing it as “Coca-Cola Classic.” It then needed two ad campaigns to promote two products, the Web site says.
Touting the new Coke in 1986 was the slogan “Catch the Wave.” But those who wanted to wave buh-bye to the new flavor argued that the original flavor was a bona-fide symbol of America, so the company opted for the “Red White & You” slogan for Coke Classic.
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