Michael Jackson's Brief Career in Advertising

King of Pop Wasn't Exactly King of Madison Avenue

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It's hard to overstate the impact Michael Jackson had on pop culture from music to videos to movies to fashion to weird prison dance routines.

But unlike many of today's celebrities, the King of Pop didn't have a huge commercial/endorsement career. In terms of traditional advertising, Jackson went to bat for two brands: Pepsi and L.A. Gear. The Pepsi deal was huge news at the time, first for his simple involvement, secondly for the horrible turn the shoot took when the singer's hair was set on fire. (That in itself became such a pop culture moment that Phil Dusenberry named his memoir "Then We Set His Hair on Fire.")

L.A. Gear is sort of a forgotten footnote. The shoe company actually sued Jackson for not delivering the goods. And Jackson's later problems had brands keeping clear of him.

Still, when Michael Jackson agreed to do spots for Pepsi's "Choice of a New Generation" campaign back in the mid-80s, it was almost a pop-culture equivalent of the moon landing. I don't know if youngsters these days will realize how big a deal this Pepsi commercial was. It actually received mainstream media news coverage at a time when the mainstream media didn't spend that much time talking about silly old commercials. (And, yes, the kids starring in the spot is Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Carlton in "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.")

In a later spot, Pepsi seems to be going for its own Mean Joe Green moment.

The L.A. Gear spot was notable for, well, not for anything really.

Feel free to drop your Michael memories, thoughts or whatever in the comment section below.

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