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Call it the battle of the bottled icons.

Pepsi-Cola Co.-abandoning celebrities, chimpanzees and bratty kids-is re-upping the ante in the cola wars with a new U.S. campaign and theme line positioning its top brands as Coca-Cola's rival iconoclasts.

When it breaks during the Super Bowl, the tagline "Nothing else is a Pepsi" and an initial series of humorous vignettes replace the dizzy "Be young, have fun, drink Pepsi" campaign.

"These are the best ads to come out of the Pepsi organization in the past several years," said Jesse Meyers, editor of Beverage Digest newsletter. "The bottlers are more exhilarated about these ads than by any they've seen in quite some time."

The new tagline seems as amorphous as the "Always Coca-Cola" theme for Coke Classic did when it was created in 1993 by Creative Artists Agency, Beverly Hills. Also like the "Always" campaign, Pepsi's new ads do double duty, extolling the pleasure of drinking either a diet or regular beverage.

In what's bound to become one of the most popular ads, a man conjures up an image of his late father, a baseball player who disappears in disgust when his son offers him a private-label soda brand. In another that was especially well-received by Pepsi bottlers at a meeting last week, a young beachcomber, intent on sucking his last drops of Pepsi, becomes lodged in a bottle.

Pepsi President-CEO Craig Weatherup said Pepsi's commercials have "a degree of charm that makes them more embracing" than Coke Classic's.

Said Mr. Meyers: "There's a dual purpose for soft-drink advertising; one is to whet consumers' appetite and the other is to provide tremendous incentive for the company's employees and bottlers, and they've scored well this year."

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