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Pepsi Embraces 'Optimistic' Millennials in New TBWA Work

Survey of Youthful Consumers Influencing Campaign That Could Break on Super Bowl

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Curious about PepsiCo's first big campaign post- BBDO? Well, here's a clue: Generation Optimistic.

Influencing the final campaign, which involves a brand overhaul including repackaging with smiley-face-type logos, is a survey of consumers commissioned by Pepsi and conducted by StrategyOne last month. It found that Millennials, those born between 1980 and 1990, are particularly hopeful about the future, with 95% agreeing that it is important to maintain a positive outlook on life.

Getting its carbonated soft-drink brands to resonate with Millennials will be important to the company's revitalization of the category.
Getting its carbonated soft-drink brands to resonate with Millennials will be important to the company's revitalization of the category.
Fueled with that information, Pepsi plans to debut a campaign inspired by Millennials that will play to their optimistic nature and mirror the current social climate -- even in the teeth of a painful and lingering recession.

'Youthful exuberance'
"Pepsi has always stood for youthful exuberance and optimism, and we're pleased to learn through this survey that the positive spirit in youth culture is not only intact but growing," said Dave Burwick, Pepsi's chief marketing officer. "Our new brand identity campaign reflects that optimism like never before -- on shelf and in advertising."

Product bearing the new logos is beginning to roll out to stores, and the campaign will debut shortly, the brand said. A spokeswoman for Pepsi declined to provide a more specific timeline. There has been some speculation that the brand could use the Super Bowl on Feb. 1 to debut new creative around the logos. Last year the game attracted an average audience of 97.5 million people in the U.S. The company confirmed it has bought time in the game but declined to provide further details.

TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa Del Rey, Calif., is working on the new campaign, having been named Pepsi's communications agency last month. It will be the agency's first creative work for brand Pepsi, which spent about $162 million on advertising in 2007, according to Advertising Age's 100 Leading National Advertisers report. BBDO Worldwide had handled the account for nearly 50 years.

Pepsi has long sought to appeal to younger consumers with taglines like "Generation Next" and "The Choice of a New Generation." Getting its carbonated soft-drink brands to resonate with Millennials will be important to the company's revitalization of the category. In recent years, younger consumers have fled to new categories such as energy drinks and fortified waters. That, in part, has led to declining soft-drink volume at both PepsiCo and rival Coca-Cola. PepsiCo reported a 3% volume decline in North America during the third quarter, while Coca-Cola reported a 2% decline.

Not just Millennials
The consumer survey was part of the Pepsi Optimism Project, which aims to examine the mind-set of Millennials. It found that the group is more confident and excited about the future than any other generation. Still, a Pepsi spokeswoman pointed out that other generations are also fairly optimistic. More than two-thirds of adults surveyed said that the election of President-elect Barack Obama is making them feel optimistic about the future of the country.

"We have a broad target audience, and we believe this campaign will appeal to people of many different ages," the spokeswoman said. "We are excited that people are optimistic across the board. ... [The survey] gives us more information, so it does help shape how we're going to move forward with this campaign."

The study also found that 95% of Millennials make positive associations when they think of the word "change." They also associate the word with sentiments including "new," "progress," "hope" and "excitement." That bodes well for Pepsi, which has received plenty of criticism for changing its iconic globe logo.

Dave Burwick
Dave Burwick

The new logo is a white band in the middle of Pepsi's circle that loosely forms a series of smiles. It is Pepsi's 11th logo in its 110-year history. Pepsi unveiled a plan to revitalize the flagging soft-drink category in October that involves a complete packaging, merchandising and marketing overhaul of its soft drinks. It is being funded by Pepsi's "Productivity for Growth" initiative, which is expected to generate savings of $1.2 billion over three years.

'Feels like bullshit'
But will a message of optimism really play during a time when there's a housing meltdown, credit crunch, a continuous stream of job losses and a wracking recession? "It's not going to resonate. It feels like bullshit to me," said Ray Graj, principal at Graj & Gustavson. "It's like putting your head in the sand. People are scared about their jobs; they're getting reduced bonuses. It feels contrived to go down that path, regardless of what market surveys they're reading."

Mr. Graj went on to say that, while there certainly is some optimism around the upcoming inauguration of Mr. Obama, it will be short lived. "What we're facing is a real deep bad thing, and that's settling in slowly," he said. "[People] are confronting the reality of the situation."

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