Pepsi is taking a not-so-veiled shot at Coke with its Super Bowl ad starring Missy Elliott and H.E.R. remaking the Rolling Stones classic “Paint it Black.”
The ad begins with H.E.R singing the lyric “I see a red door, and I want it painted black.” while holding a red can that is an obvious reference to Coke. She then busts out of a red-colored world into a black-shaded scene. She is joined by Elliott as they put their own twist on the Stones tune. The 30-second spot by Goodby Silverstein & Partners plugs Pepsi Zero Sugar’s new matte black can.
Pepsi had earlier revealed that H.E.R and Elliott would star in the ad and that it would include a remake of the song. The brand ran teaser ads during last weekend’s broadcast of the Grammy Awards. The brand did not reveal that it would be taking a shot at Coke until releasing the ad today. But anyone familiar with the lyrics of the song should have seen this coming.
The original song widely is interpreted to be about depression, with lines such as “it’s not easy facing up when your whole world is black.” That is, of course, hardly the kind of vibe a soda brand has traditionally gone for. But Pepsi tries to give an upbeat interpretation with the remake, which includes Elliott rapping lines like, “I’m in my own lane, I’m unapologetic and I do my own thing.”
The spot ends with the line, “Zero Sugar. Done Right,” followed by “That’s What I Like,” which is Pepsi’s new tagline. Pepsi Marketing VP Todd Kaplan recently described the line as meant to appeal to people who “are comfortable in their own skin [and] enjoy life unapologetically without really worrying about what other people think.” (Coke also sells a Zero Sugar variety that has enjoyed strong sales momentum.)
Pepsi in its press release about the Super Bowl ad did not directly address the Coke reference, but described the spot as “a bold challenger move.” Pepsi, which has a history of taking direct aim at its larger competitor, began re-embracing its challenger status with its 2019 Super Bowl ad. The spot confronted the fact that a lot of people first order a Coke at restaurants, only to be asked, “Is Pepsi OK?” The ad included Cardi sending the message that Pepsi is more than O.K.; it is, as she put it, “Okurrr.”