Pepsi's 'Optimism' Push Gets Times Square Treatment

Billboards, New Year's Eve Festivities Part of Brand's Image Update

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NEW YORK ( -- Pepsi-Cola's New Year's resolution: Boost soft-drink sales and capture consumers' attention with a new logo and upbeat advertising. So what better place to kick off that effort than Times Square on New Year's Eve?

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The brand could use a fresh start. Pepsi has had a rocky year, with declining soft-drink sales, its stock price dropping nearly 30% and a reshuffling of its marketing executives and ad agencies. Despite all this, the marketer is now trying a new campaign that indicates things are looking up, as influenced by the "Pepsi Optimism Project," which found that Millennials are confident about what 2009 has in store for them.

"New Year's is one of the most optimistic times of the year, a chance to 'refresh' as a country and for everyone as individuals," said Nicole Bradley, a Pepsi spokeswoman. "We believe this is the ideal time to launch our new campaign."

New Work from new shop
The effort includes TBWA/Chiat/Day's first work for the brand since winning Pepsi's U.S. business in November. The brightly hued 30-second TV spot is entitled "Wordplay," which broke Dec. 28 and will run through early January. It features a series of salutations and exclamations, including the phrase "It's time for optimism," and closes out with New Year's well-wishes. Pepsi's new smiling-globe logo figures prominently, bouncing through the commercial and forming words.

Words from the commercial will also be displayed on eight Times Square billboards, including the digital sign above on the "Good Morning America" studios and the Toys "R" Us billboard by Dec. 31. Revelers can text messages to be scrolled across MTV's Times Square screen that will run during the network's New Year's Eve shows, and Pepsi will run selected photos of Times Square revelers on the signs. To top it all off, Pepsi will deploy about a thousand balloons three feet in diameter over Times Square just minutes before midnight. The balloons, which feature the new logo, are sure to grab plenty of screen time during the countdown to 2009.

Media buying is being led by OMD, New York, while Vivid Marketing is facilitating ground-level activation of the campaign, including street teams and the balloon drop.

"New Year's Eve in Times Square is seen by millions of people around the world," Ms. Bradley said. "TV viewers and revelers in Times Square will not be able to miss the new Pepsi logo."

Times Square billboards
Digital Agency R/GA, New York, created a website,, to support the campaign. The site carries the banner "Every generation refreshes the world, with their ideas, talents, and the knowledge that they can do anything they set their minds to. This is where that spirit comes to life. A place to refresh our culture and our country." So far, though, the site contains only the commercial, a link to a YouTube channel and a place to find pictures of people who were uploaded to the digital signs in Times Square. Beyond that, the site offers few details about what's to come, saying only, "Check back soon for new opportunities to change our world into a fresher, funnier, much better place."

The site will be updated with new content throughout 2009, as the New Year's Eve advertising evolves into a thematic campaign, said Ms. Bradley. She declined to discuss the cost of the campaign. Pepsi had a New Year's Eve presence in the late 1980s and early 1990s with a billboard at 1 Times Square, just below where the ball drops.

While New Year's Eve is certainly synonymous with optimism, it's also true that few resolutions, and the buoyant feelings that go along with them, last into February. "Anywhere you go right now people are talking about the economy. The country is not in a mood of optimism. That's a very [tall order] for one package-goods company to try to move the needle in the other direction," said Avi Dan, a marketing consultant. "I really applaud them for coming up with an interesting strategy and an advertising strategy that is very aspirational. Sometimes the best advertising is aspirational. Whether it's relevant, is another question. Time will tell."

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