Pepsi’s latest nostalgia trip takes viewers back to Rydell High and Frosty Palace, with a little help from Doja Cat. The fictional locales, etched in the memories of “Grease” fans everywhere, are the backdrop for a Pepsi ad plugging its new “Soda Shop” limited-edition line of flavored colas with a 1950s vibe.
The spot from VaynerMedia features the singer remaking the classic tune “You’re the One that I Want,” which was originally performed by Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in the 1978 film based on the 1972 Broadway musical.
The 90-second ad will debut Sunday during the MTV Video Music Awards, which Doja Cat is hosting.
The ad sticks to the basic structure of the original movie scene, in which Newton-John, playing Sandy Olsson, tries to impress greaser Danny Zuko, played by Travolta. Pepsi adds a few modern twists: The cast is a lot more diverse than in the movie. And instead of a duet, Doja Cat gives a solo performance while Zuko (played by Noah Steinbuch) looks on. There is a subtle lyric change, too: instead of singing “I need a man,” Dojo Cat sings, “I need a plan.”
Also, there are plenty of product shots of the new black cherry and cream soda colas. The final ad scene occurs in the Pepsi-Cola-branded Soda Shop, which is the brand’s take on the film’s Frosty Palace malt shop. Pepsi actually had product placement in the original film. (A Coca-Cola poster ad in the Frosty Palace scene had to be blurred out because the prop manager did not know about the deal, according to this account from USA Today.)
The ad was directed by Hannah Lux Davis and choreographed by Sean Bankhead.
Here's the original scene:
The Soda Shop drinks contain 150 calories per can, matching regular Pepsi, and will be sold as long as supplies last.
Doja Cat is the singer to work with Pepsi, joining a list that includes The Weeknd, Cardi B, Missy Elliott and H.E.R. and Michael Jackson.
Along with its long-running musical ties, Pepsi has a history of making retro plays, including bringing back the 1990s-era clear soda Crystal Pepsi in 2016.
Nostalgia marketing has accelerated since then, with brands including Pizza Hut, Carvel and Domino’s among those climbing into the wayback machine in the past year. The Soda Shop line feeds into nostalgia and indulgence, says Pepsi Marketing VP Todd Kaplan, saying the two trends are fueled by consumers looking for comfort in uncertain times.
“There is such great iconography with ‘Grease’—from the Pink Ladies to the T-Birds to the bleacher scene,” says Kaplan. “We thought that was really rich fodder to create a really fun, reimagined, modern take on it.”
The film was a huge hit in 1978 but in recent years has been criticized for having sexist overtones. Earlier this year, Newton-John defended the movie during an appearance on the "A Life of Greatness" podcast, according to an account in USA Today, saying, "It was a stage play, it's a musical, it's fun. I think everyone's taking everything so seriously. I think we need to relax a little bit and just enjoy things for what they are. And I didn't see it like that at all, I think it's just a fun movie that entertains people. That's all."
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