Pepsi Re-Rolls Out The Big Guns In 'X Factor' Debut Spots

by , Sep 22, 2011, 8:34 AM
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You weren't in a time warp, Bruce Horovitz assures us in USA Today, and pardon you if thinking you were while watching the likes of the late Michael Jackson and Ray Charles pitching Pepsi on the debut of Simon Cowell's "The X Factor" on Fox last night.

There were other no-need-for-last names megastars of another generation in the 60-second spot, dubbed "Music Icons," such as Brittany, Mariah, Kanye. But it also features a "Pepsi-exclusive remix" of the song, "Tonight is the Night" by Yonkers-own Outasight.

PepsiCo Beverages CMO Simon Lowden says, "'Tonight is the Night'... perfectly captures the spirit of music today" and "that the spot is about re-igniting the timeless connection between Pepsi and iconic pop music and also about celebrating our partnership with 'The X Factor.'"

Another spot that rolled out last night stars Kevin McHale, the actor who portrays the wheelchair-bound Artie Abrams on "Glee." He was selected "because of his genuine affinity for the brand," PepsiCo Beverages chief global consumer engagement officer Frank Cooper tells Ad Age's Natalie Zmuda. "He was effusive about it. It wasn't a one-word answer, 'Pepsi is cool.'"

In addition to the nods to its heritage, there will be some decidedly contemporary twists to the campaign, and we're not just talking the "X Factor" tab on Pepsi's Facebook page.

McHale tells viewers that "with Pepsi, you'll experience the show in ways you have never imagined," but Cooper is cagey when Zmuda presses him on exactly what that means. He does say the brand "will be focused on second-screen activity, as well as aggregating conversations and interacting with viewers" and that "we're making an effort to move beyond the traditional sponsorship and think about how the Pepsi brand can add to the viewer experience."

Isn't everybody?

Getting back to the nuts and bolts of product placement, Pepsi received more than $6,500,000 in free media exposure through verbal mentions, product consumptions and other forms of screen time including cups on the judges' table and vending machines in the main contestant waiting room last night alone, according to a release from Front Row Analytics.

And the Boston Herald reports that a hometown company called Pongr is behind technology that recognizes the "X-Factor" logos on photos of cans of Pepsi that customers send in from their mobile devices. In return, they get back videos featuring behind-the-scenes footage and 56 contestants will eventually win a trip to Los Angeles.

"Mobile users are getting very familiar with the concept of the 'check-in,'" says Pongr CEO Jamie Thompson, who claims he's ready to handle hundreds of millions of photos. "But Pongr is all about bringing that concept down to the product level, getting people to check in to a product, and hopefully buy that product."

Meanwhile, Age's EJ Schultz reports PepsiCo is forming a Global Snacks Group to coordinate international marketing and innovation, as well as Power of One Americas Council to jointly promote snacks and beverages in stores. Both efforts will be led by John Compton, CEO of PepsiCo Americas Foods.

"The group's creation comes as analysts have questioned PepsiCo's ability to market food and beverage together. Some analysts have gone so far as to suggest the company split in two, separating its fast-rising snacks business from its underperforming beverage unit," Schultz writes.

Down in Atlanta, Coca-Cola is "backing off supersizing" Mike Esterl reported earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal. In an exclusive, he reported that Coke is launching 12.5-ounce, 89-cent bottles to accompany the 16-ounce, 99-cent bottles it rolled out nationally last year as an alternative to 20-ounce bottles and is also reducing the suggested price its eight-pack of 7.5-ounce Coke "mini'' cans in supermarkets by about 20% to $2.99 to try and lure more customers.

In a video interview on Bloomberg, Coke CEO Muhtar Kent takes the long view.

"We're generating that growth not because of what we've done in the last quarters, but what's happened in the last three years -- how we've invested in our brands, how we've created an infrastructure, how we're communicating with our consumers and how we're generating and commercializing innovation," he says.

And, according to WARC's report on the conversation, Kent is grateful for little things, too: "We're fortunate that we are in a business where we sell, in a way, moments of pleasure at cents at a time. So we're not selling refrigerators and we're not selling big ticket items."

Okay, who can we get to say it? Hmmm, how about Robert Thompson, professor of TV and pop culture at Syracuse University?

"I suppose we could call this Cola Wars II," he tells Horovitz. "The war to end all cola wars."

Right. I'll bet you a case of generic seltzer water the battle will still be raging when we're all in "Rock and Roll Heaven."

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