The Biz: Pepsi revamps its 'Smash' with WB

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The pop-entrenched cola brand that gives "Pepsi Smash" its name will vastly expand its marketing and promotion around the music show's second season this summer, pulling radio, online and retail into the mix after a toe in the water last year showed that teens responded to the modern day "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert."

The weekly series on The WB network, one of the only live music shows to float into prime-time TV in years without quickly sinking, will go beyond its Burbank, Calif., studio for the first time to broadcast outtakes from concert tours around the country, via a partnership with Clear Channel Entertainment. Pepsi-Cola North America, the WB and the show's producers wanted to heighten the hip factor by bringing in bands that fill stadiums.


"Summer's the biggest time for touring, and this Clear Channel deal will give us access to bands that probably would not come to our studio," says Suzanne Kolb, the network's exec VP-marketing, advertising and promotions. "We had a lot more time to plan this season, and this partnership is really helping the show."

Last summer's "Pepsi Smash" came together quickly with six episodes. The re-do, expanded to eight shows, was decided early this year and wheels were set in motion, literally, shortly thereafter.

Pepsi created a tricked-out Smash-Mobile, which doubles as a vehicle and a stage, to provide the live concert feeds. An on-the-road correspondent, still to be named, will be on board as the Smash-Mobile hits Clear Channel Pepsi venues, further cementing the brand message.

In another extension, Pepsi is pulling together two live concerts that likely will feature some of the bands from the series. The band lineup hasn't been set for the September shows, dubbed "Pepsi Smash Live."

They will be held at Clear Channel Pepsi venues still to be determined, and they won't be televised, though The WB likely will take part on-site. Attendees will get there only through Pepsi contests, giveaways and perhaps watch-and-wins attached to "Pepsi Smash."

The first season was risky because live music shows haven't done well on network TV for some time. Pepsi's ties to pop music-everyone from Michael Jackson to Britney and Beyonce have hawked the soda-made it a solid choice, executives said.

"Our No. 1 goal wasn't necessarily off-channel leverage, but on-air connection," says Katie Lacey, Pepsi-Cola North America's VP-colas and media. "It was a somewhat unproven model."

Once the season played well, attracting 25 million viewers over the six-week run and performing particularly well with teen girls, Pepsi executives decided to give it broader support this summer. Bottlers and retailers asked for local and regional promotions, which will kick off in advance of the show's May 27 launch.

The show itself won't change significantly from last summer, continuing with a mix of musical genres but naming a permanent host, as yet undecided, instead of rotating talent. Joel Gallen and his Tenth Planet Productions return as producers. Last summer's musical lineup included already-famous Beyonce, Dido, Evanescence and Fabolous, and slightly lesser-known artists such as Black Eyed Peas, Chingy, Maroon 5 and Trapt.

high-profile platform

The series makes its debut on the heels of May sweeps, giving the network a high-profile platform for promotion. Last year's show launched in the doldrums of mid-July.

Continuing its branding of the show, Pepsi has added a new interactive element, called Smash Off, which is a battle of the bands that lets viewers pick the band for the night's encore performance. WB marketing executives are searching for a wireless company as a sponsor and marketing partner for that segment.

Though the brand is front and center in the show's name, Pepsi executives say they will try not to be heavy-handed with on-screen exposure. The host, for instance, won't be sipping from a Pepsi cup, a la Coca-Cola Co.'s "American Idol" exposure. But the globe logo with headphones will be omnipresent in what Pepsi execs say will be a "subtle and integrated" presence.

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