Some time last year, Pepsi introduced its new branding on broadcast TV. The “Anthem” spot edits together Dylan’s original Forever Young and a remix version by will.i.am. It jumps between clips of both artists, with Bob in black and white wearing classic Ray Bans, and also between scraps of historic and contemporary footage. The first airing probably kicked off a big spike in Google searches and downloads of Forever Young. And in bids for vintage frames on eBay. Not so much in Pepsi sales or refreshed perceptions of the brand, one would expect.
Pepsi didn’t dig too far for a concept — people still do things they did in the sixties. There was music then; there’s music now. We had a gruesome and unpopular war back then; we have one now. In the sixties we had skateboards and watched Gumby. Today we have skateboards and watch Shrek. Good TV commercials create a good feeling and then give you something to do about it. It’s hard to find any of that here.
“Refresh Everything” is the new Pepsi Anthem. Is refreshment what people want from Pepsi? Pepsi is refreshing when you’ve eaten a lot of salt. It will also take the edge off a serious migraine.
Targeted at the millenial generation, “refresh” is internet terminology, for the kids, with their texting and such. So it follows that Refresheverything.com mimics the experience of a social utility. Like a social utility, what appears to be user-posted content takes the lead over design and copy, which don’t come off authentically, but instead, as afterthoughts. It’s alleged that millenials are more socially conscious, and the site strategy reaches for that too. A vague social message is layered somewhat awkwardly on top of what is still, at best, a soft drink brand, not a make-a-difference brand. Pepsi could start making a difference by paying the dentist bills of a million Americans.
Here’s a classic example of American TV advertising that does something similar, but much better:
You catch yourself humming along to this. If you’re pre-millenial, it evokes wistful memories of your childhood. Be honest: you get a little choked up. The song, and the images in the ad (minus the man with sideburns wearing all white, who evokes an association with Jonestown) uplift you to a state of bonhomie for the whole damn world, and while you’re there, you’re thinking “Why not drink a Coke?”
Here’s another ad, this time from Diet Coke:
This ad is just about sparkles that move in an infectious way to create a feeling, that grows, and at the end you think you might as well drink a Diet Coke, because it’s kind of sparkly too. Rumors say Diet Coke is a nerve toxin. But it does quench your thirst, and you don’t feel guilty drinking it, because you’d rather be forgetful, slur your speech, or shout curses at people, than get fat.
The Pepsi ad doesn’t do either thing, create a good feeling or make you thirsty. But it does make me want to look around on eBay for a pair of vintage Ray Bans. Maybe Pepsi should sell them. Apparently everything else is for sale, including Bob Dylan.