Pepsi Places Will.i.am Ad in Grammys

Spot Will Appear Right After Singer Presents an Award

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Just a week after raising eyebrows by running Pepsi-themed "Saturday Night Live" skits in commercial breaks on NBC, Pepsi-Cola will once again run an ad tied to a specific TV moment. This time, the beverage giant will zero in on the 51st annual Grammy Awards broadcast, on CBS.

The Pepsi ad with Will.i.am will appear immediately after the singer presents a Grammy award.
The Pepsi ad with Will.i.am will appear immediately after the singer presents a Grammy award.
Pepsi has made certain that after singer Will.i.am presents an award Sunday evening, a special "bumper" featuring the rapper's likeness will appear, then segue into a recently launched Pepsi ad featuring both Will.i.am and Bob Dylan. By arranging for the ad to appear immediately after Will.i.am will be on the screen, Pepsi hopes to make the commercial more relevant to the viewing audience.

"Typically, you do a spot and you just try to find a bunch of different places [for it to run]. That's the tommy-gun approach," said Rob Schwartz, executive creative director at Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day, Pepsi's ad agency. "This is more precise, and more and more, we are looking to do deeper messages and have them in places where there's more relevance."

A subtle shift
That desire is prompting a subtle shift in how broadcast networks run the ads that support their shows. For decades, marketers ran their ads on TV by requesting placement that wasn't any more specific than Thursday prime time, or during a specific daypart, and sometimes against a specific show. Now, with more consumers fast-forwarding past commercial breaks and with the economy wreaking havoc on the ad business, networks are willing to upend their practices to guarantee that ads appear in more-specific places and for more-specific purposes.

At Pepsi, there seems to be a definite push to use network shows to whet consumer appetite for a particular commercial, rather than just peppering viewers with the same ad over and over again.

"We're always looking for new ways to engage our consumers in meaningful experiences," Frank Cooper, VP-portfolio brands, Pepsi-Cola North America Beverages, said in a prepared statement. The commercial depicts Will.i.am updating Mr. Dylan's "Forever Young."

Guarding the Grammys' integrity
Like the producers of "Saturday Night Live," the people who manage the Grammys are known to guard the integrity of their property. The awards show's producers maintain "really high standards," Mr. Schwartz said. These days, however, with networks' live ratings in decline and marketers' ad commitments in flux, allowing such ad tie-ins can mean the difference between lost and found revenue.

Aiding the transition from awards-show moment to Pepsi plug is the fact that TBWA also serves as the Grammys' ad agency. The ad shop has created a promotion for the awards program showing celebrity faces made out of the words of songs that have influenced them. Will.i.am's face, built out of song titles, will be seen during the "bumper" between his on-air moment and the Pepsi spot, Mr. Schwartz said.

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