Pepsi plans biggest-ever urban push

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Pepsi-Cola Co. kicks off its largest-ever urban-marketing effort next week, featuring hip-hop sensation Wyclef Jean as the centerpiece of a wide-ranging initiative for its flagship brand covering print ads, radio promotions, sports and fashion tie-ins, sampling and a beefed-up Pepsi Challenge.

The Grammy-winning artist will appear in two TV spots-one breaking April 16, the other in June-and will show up in radio ads, print and point-of-purchase material. The first ad with the former Fugees member is set on a Rio de Janeiro beach and looks like an ad promoting Brazilian tourism-until the Pepsi bottle shows up and Mr. Jean intones "Joy of Pepsi, y'all" to a Brazilian beat. The second Pepsi spot has Mr. Jean fusing eclectic sounds in a recording studio.

PepsiCo's Pepsi-Cola also will sponsor his 2001 tour, and the performer will make personal appearances for the brand as well, said Charlee Taylor-Hines, director of urban and ethnic marketing.

The country's No. 2 soft-drink marketer is trying to expand its inner-city stronghold, targeting 12- to 21-year-old urban trendsetters sought by marketers, including rival Coca-Cola Co., which has its own urban-marketing drive (AA, Sept. 4). Ms. Taylor-Hines would not comment on how much Pepsi will spend on the effort this year, except to say the program will cover twice as many markets as last year. The program is anticipated to hit 30 markets, although the company wouldn't give specific figures.

The Pepsi-Cola brand received more than $131 million in total measured media last year. Mountain Dew, which will receive a separate urban push, was supported with more than $57 million in measured media, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.

"Each year we expand and grow. We learn more about how to get things done effectively. This is a business-driven [strategy, but it] also happens to be the right thing to do," said Ms. Taylor-Hines, noting that urban youth comprise almost 40% of young Americans. "Not only are they important in terms of sheer number and size, they are also important because they are the ... trendsetters that all other youth follow. Their influence and power exceeds their size."

Black households spent $1.4 billion on nonalcoholic carbonated beverages last year, according to Target Market News' 2001 Buying Power of Black America report. The total U.S. soft-drink market is $60 billion at retail, according to Maxwell/Beverage Digest Annual Soft-Drink and Alternative Survey.

Rapper Busta Rhymes will promote Mountain Dew for a third year as well as help launch its Code Red line extension. The Mountain Dew spot also breaks next week. The ads will appear on TV outlets including BET, WB and MTV and were produced by UniWorld Group, New York, a shop 49%-owned by WPP Group.


Music long has been a key strategy at Pepsi, which has featured performers including Lionel Richie, Madonna, Ray Charles, M.C. Hammer and Michael Jackson in its advertising. Last year's artists included Ricky Martin and Sisqo. In 2000, the soft-drink marketer ran a promotion with a New York City radio station; this year's radio initiative will be expanded to Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit and Atlanta.

"Music is something that can cross borders," Ms. Taylor-Hines said. "It's also something that's part of the Pepsi heritage, part of its brand equity."

Sampling also will support the Pepsi brand, as well as the company's No. 2 seller Mountain Dew, and Code Red. The Pepsi Challenge will be expanded among black and Hispanic youth.

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