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PepsiCo: BBDO Worldwide, New York

Ad Review rating:1

My, my. What to do when your soft-drink brand is being trounced by your rival on the order of 3-to-1 around the globe?

You could sign the world's biggest pop superstar and exploit his youth appeal, especially the young males you most covet. (Helpful hint: Try to choose a superstar who doesn't covet young males too very much himself.) Or, you could effect some bold gesture to get the world's attention, thereupon to address the young generation in terms that cross nearly all borders and cultures.

PepsiCo is now embarked on just such a Plan B-beginning with the startling decision to ditch decades of equity in red-white-and-blue packaging for nearly all blue, as announced in a global ad campaign from BBDO Worldwide, New York.

One of four spots employs somewhat awkward matting effects to take a bunch of American icons-blue jeans, Cindy Crawford, leather jacket, etc.-from their natural habitats and send them soaring toward a gigantic Jules Verne-like blender, which spits out a new, blue can of Pepsi.

Another animates Crawford in a tedious takeoff of the Aeon Flux character on MTV. A third invokes a lot of self-actualization blather ("It's your turn. It's your voice."), and would look exactly like a Fruitopia spot if it didn't also look exactly like a Microsoft spot, a Reebok spot and a True Value hardware spot.

But then there is the fourth commercial, which explains everything. "Hey, Tony," says an offscreen voice to a young teen standing among his friends in an Italian city square, "now that you've changed to Pepsi, what else would you change?"

Tony grins and approaches the camera. "I'd like to be soap-on-a-rope in Claudia Schiffer's shower."

Now there's a bit of male fantasy we never thought we'd hear in a Pepsi commercial. But then, to the strains of Tom Jones singing "She's a Lady," we see Schiffer in slo-mo, at some sort of spa, doffing her robe and making her way to the shower.

The fantasy has materialized. Tony, digitally transmogrified, is a bar of soap dangling from a faucet and reacting to the approach of his curvaceous fantasy woman like a slobbering dog waiting for the Alpo to be scooped out of the can. Only with less subtlety.

OK, so are you ready for the clever twist? Just as Schiffer is about to get into the shower, with Tony about at end of his rope with anticipation, an obese, giggling, middle-aged woman jumps into the shower ahead of her!

Ha! That was completely unexpected! And the fat lady grabs the soap and starts washing under her arms, to the kid's screams of revulsion. And then the new tagline, "Change the script," which is an excellent idea.

Better yet: Change the management, for now it is clear that Pepsi didn't go all blue to wage a global color war with Coca-Cola. It did it in honor of the genitalia of the frustrated teen-age boys the advertising so grossly cultivates.

It's now all too common for small brands and agencies trying to increase visibility with ads flaunting crude and cheap sexual humor. But could this tittering, sexist, unabashedly adolescent trash really be from Pepsi and BBDO? Ah, yes. Beavis, Butt-head, Durstine & Osborne.

To submit TV campaigns for review, send 3/4- or 1/2-inch NTSC-format videotapes to Bob Garfield, Ad Age International, 814 National Press Building, Washington, D.C. 20045-1801, USA.

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