Pepsi TV Ads Escalate Cola Logo Wars

But the New Concept Is a Bit Stupid

By Published on .

The cola wars are back, and oh, how Plato would have chuckled. (Not that he was especially lighthearted. He'd always say preposterous things just to start an argument, not to mention the most obnoxious name-dropping. It was, like, if he brings up Phaedrus one more time. ... But that doesn't mean the dude didn't have a sense of irony.)

Logos as life force
So, here's the comical thing: His characters in "The Republic" were all the time bickering about logos -- which, in the dialogues, translated basically to "rational thought." But not just some mechanical process of reasoning; Plato's logos was more like a life force, animating the search for truth. Eventually the concept became one of the three stool-legs of rhetoric, along with ethos, or morality, and pathos, or emotion.

Get it? Pathos = emotion, and logos = reason.

But not where Coke and Pepsi are concerned! Go back a year, when Coca-Cola rediscovered its most potent rhetorical weapon hidden in plain view: its own logo(s), including the script signature, the red trade dress and, especially, the contour bottle. Not because those icons convey a rational argument, but because they trigger emotion.

Diplodicus and Chlamydia
Emotion! Are you Socra-teasing? If Plato were alive today, he and his BFFs Diplodicus and Chlamydia (or whatever their names were) would be doubled over laughing. Especially now that Pepsi's playing follow the liter.

Yes, its new campaign from BBDO Worldwide, New York, suddenly is attempting to imbue Pepsi's logo -- in Platonically correct fashion -- with a life of its own.

Pepsi, alas, doesn't have a 91-year-old contour bottle. It does, however, have that red, white and blue, circular logo that goes back to a 1950 bottle cap and has been steadily tweaked ever since. By 1991, the Pepsi script had been removed, accentuating the design's central yin-yangedness, and since then, it's been shaded to suggest a globe.

Well, that is a mere suggestion no more.

Animating the Pepsi logo
The new Pepsi campaign, tagged "More happy," takes the logo fully globular, and along the way animates it as sort of a living thing.

In one of two introductory spots, the new logosphere comes in the form of a giant beachball, which floats down to a Brazilian beach only to be punched back aloft by a mob. Then it alights again in Central Park, is punched back adrift, and so on until it reaches the ocean, whereupon a whale suddenly surfaces to keep it afloat. In an effects-laden second spot, a young guy pops open a Pepsi on the streets of San Francisco and gets swept up in a city-size game of pinball. (It's reminiscent of a hilarious '80s French spot for Orangina, the difference being that the Orangina spot had a point.)

Wait. That's unfair. This work actually has two points. The first is that Pepsi makes you more happy than Coke, which is, of course, stupid. The second, as we said, is to enliven the brand by enlivening the logo. And that's a very good idea. The problem is that at least four subsequent spots will concern themselves not with logos but with the rest of the can -- on which the background will consist of a dozen or so different blue-on-blue designs. One for surfers. One for dancing. One for snowboarding.

As if that will make anyone more happy.

More importantly, why go to the trouble of relaunching your brand around the logo if you're only going to call attention to everything but the logo? Odd way to make us all emotional about the animated globe. Do they really want us to love it?

Or maybe they want the relationship to be merely, you know, Platonic.

~ ~ ~
Review: 2.5 stars
Ad: Pepsi
Agency: BBDO Worldwide
Location: New York

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