PEPSI'S SUPER BOWL AD STRATEGY: MUSIC AND CELEBRITIES

ITunes, Cindy Crawford and Sean Combs

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Pepsi-Cola North America has returned to a reliable game plan for the Super Bowl: celebrities and surprises.

Facing a challenging outlook and tougher competition from rivals, Pepsi did an about-face from its advertising playbook last year,

choosing instead to play up the brand's easy complement to food. This year it's not really about the cola, it's about star power.

Joe Pytka
Pepsi will break four spots during Super Bowl XXXIX to promote Diet Pepsi and its promotion with iTunes, Apple's music-downloading platform. To hawk Diet Pepsi, the marketer brought back director Joe Pytka, onetime go-to supermodel Cindy Crawford and newly recruited music luminary-cum-stylemaker Sean "P. Diddy" Combs. Neither spot uses the lackluster "It's the diet cola" tagline, instead opting for a straightforward benefits play, "Light, crisp, refreshing," which will also appear on cans.

The Diet Pepsi spots are the first of a series of new spots aiming to reenergize the brand, said Lee Garfinkel, chairman and chief creative officer of Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide, New York.

P. Diddy's dramatic entrance
In one spot, Mr. Combs gets a lift to an award show from a Pepsi truck after his car breaks down. After talk show host Carson Daly points out Mr. Combs' dramatic entrance, suddenly everybody wants to copy his ride, including Eva Longoria of Desperate Housewives and Wilmer Valderrama of That 70s Show.

In another spot, a buff-looking man with a Diet Pepsi in one hand and scrappy, leashed dog on the other struts down the street as women ogle and drool at him lustily. In the final shot of the version released to the press, Ms. Crawford, herself once the object of desire in an earlier Diet Pepsi effort, now gets to do the objectifying.

'Queer Eye' touch
Executives close to Pepsi said the spot has another ending that puts a Queer Eye for the Straight Guy touch on the payoff shot, when one of the "Fab Five" checks out the hunky man's behind.

For Mr. Garfinkel, the effort brings him full circle on his past efforts for Pepsi and rival Coca-Cola. He worked on Pepsi for three years when he was at Omnicom's BBDO Worldwide, New York, and in 1991 he led development what has become his most famous spot for Diet Pepsi, in which two boys drool over Ms. Crawford as she buys a can of the drink from a vending machine. Mr. Garfinkel switched teams and agencies and in 1994 created the "Diet Coke Break" ad that showed female office workers leering at a sexy construction worker, making model Lucky Vanous a household name.

Homage to earlier effort
When asked if about the similarities between ideas he used for Diet Pepsi and Diet Coke, Mr. Garfinkel said the inspiration for the new ad was a campaign from the 1960s called "Girl Watcher." That spot showed male executives, policemen and others watching women in the city. Mr. Garfinkel said this new spot pays homage to the "Girl Watchers" spot but reverses the roles to reflect how men also drink diet beverages.

Mr. Garfinkel wouldn't confirm the additional surprise cameo appearance in the new ad, but confirmed that it "brings it into 2005," he said.

A-list star for iTunes
For Pepsi's iTunes promotion, Pepsi let the music be the star, and singers Gwen Stefani and Eve appear briefly in one of the two spots, which also uses the song "Rich Girl" by Ms. Stefani that features Eve. Created by Omnicom's TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., "Bottle Songs" features music from popular tracks that plays as bottles are opened.

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