Former presidential candidate and Senate majority leader Bob Dole got a lot of attention when he turned up in a 1998 ad for the then-new drug Viagra, but erectile dysfunction drugs had not yet made their Super Bowl debut at the time of the 2001 game.
So Pepsi and longtime agency BBDO came up with a plan to turn some heads with a big-game pharmaceutical-ad parody about Dole’s “faithful blue friend."
Ad Age critic Bob Garfield traced Dole and Pepsi's journey in his Super Bowl ad review:
First Bob Dole ran for president and lost big. That was humiliating. Then he did a Visa commercial making fun of himself. That was oddly dignified. Then he did a serious Viagra commercial about the miracle of restored erectile function. That was oddly even more dignified. Now here's another Viagra spot ... no, wait ... it's a Pepsi commercial. He's making fun of himself again. And that's oddly, I don't know ... digmiliating? Anyway, big laffs, and-at last-it's the Joy of Pepsi, not merely cola.
The spot lands a nice kicker when it cuts to its version of a pharma spot's voiceover-of-caution, delivered by a deli clerk played by Erik Stonestreet, who would later become known for his role on the ABC sitcom "Modern Family." (To see a real prescription drug lay out its many potential effects for a gargantuan Super Bowl audience, see the latter half of Flomax's 2007 spot "Biking.")
PepsiCo previously enlisted political stars Dan Quayle, Mario Cuomo and Ann Richards for Super Bowl ads promoting Frito-Lay snacks (see "Mario Cuomo and Ann Richards," 1995).