Michael Jackson is hardly the first celebrity who has posthumously sung the praises of a brand but one wonders exactly what the folks at Pepsi are thinking in enlisting a dead man to endorse a product that has been perennially in pursuit of a new generation since 1963.
Ad Age’s Natalie Zmuda broke the story about Pepsi’s deal with the late singer’s estate, which will coincide with the 25th anniversary of the release of the “Bad” album, more than a month ago but Pepsi made a formal announcement yesterday. That has media outlets from TMZ.com to the Wall Street Journal to Entertainment Weekly wagging about the implications.
"It's like the dead is dancing to sell your product," Scott Lerman, CEO of Lucid Brands tells the Journal’s Mike Esterl and Suzanne Vranica.
“Will you drink the King of Pop's pop?” asks the headline on EW.com.
“This just sounds tacky!” is the lede on the blog post at PerezHilton.com. It concludes: “It's straight up morbid AND creepy!”
“Lots of people blame the Pepsi shoot for putting MJ on a drug-fueled path of self-destruction -- including one of the singer's former managers Frank Cascio, who said MJ was introduced to Demerol (a heroin-like opioid) following the accident ... to help deal with the pain.”
“I’m sure Jackson fans will hoard the cans as souvenirs. But appropriate? Maybe not,” writes Roger Friedman in Forbes, seemingly concurring with the theory that “his plastic surgery and painkiller addictions can be traced to that event.”
“We're here to market the re-release of the 'Bad' album and Pepsi is the most effective place to do it," a spokesman for the estate tells TMZ.
One billion cans will “feature iconic silhouette imagery of the King of Pop” and Pepsi “will also run contests in markets around the world giving fans the opportunity to win merchandise, including a limited number of jackets inspired by the original staff BAD tour jackets and tickets to “Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour” by Cirque du Soleil,” according to a press release.
"We are thrilled to bring Michael and Pepsi back together, as they were in 1988, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the BAD album and tour and to put Michael on one billion Pepsi cans -– perhaps a Guinness record,”John Branca and John McClain, co-executors of the estate of Michael Jackson are quoting as saying before adding -– gratuitously, it would seem -- "We're excited to see it all come to life.”
Elsewhere in Marketing Daily today, Karl Greenberg covers a fascinating panel discussion at the New York Public Library yesterday about five classic television commercials. Among them was the original Pepsi Generation spot from 1963, which, he writes, “veered toward a youth positioning, but much more overtly than any brand could do today and get away with it.... The voiceover says Pepsi wants to be the top cola for young people, which is why they are everywhere.”
Including, 50 years later, China, where a 330ml limited edition is “available at retail locations nationwide” starting tomorrow. “In addition, from May 15 - June 14, 2012, fans will be encouraged to share photos of their valuable Jackson collections or original artwork celebrating him, for a chance to win tickets” to the Cirque du Soleil production as part of China's "In Honor of King of Pop MJ" promotion, the release informs us.
The Journal’s Esterl and Vranica write that “dead icons also can create enormous buzz,” pointing to the hologram of Tupac Shakur appearing on stage with Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre during the Coachella festival last month. “An Internet video of the show became an instant phenomenon,” they report. And PepsiCo’s Frank Cooper tells them that Jackson marketing is more "forward looking'' than nostalgic by celebrating the pop legend's continuing influence on music.
Okay, so here’s the original Bob Giraldi “New Generation” spot. It may be dated but it’s still an energetic way to moon walk into the weekend.