Pepsi Smash is reminiscent of a primetime American Bandstand on ABC or the short-running NBC music series Hullabaloo that ran in the mid-1960s. But instead of Leslie Gore, the Rolling Stones and Junior Walker & the All Stars, this music show features performers like The Ataris, Evanescence and Pepsi spokeswoman Beyonce Knowles. The series runs Wednesdays for six weeks, ahead of September's two-hour live Pepsi Play for a Billion game show.
"It's a return to the old days of television. In a way, it's back to the future," said Pepsi spokesman David Dececco. It's also another iteration of Pepsi's longstanding relationship with the music community, which has led to musicians like Michael Jackson, Britney Spears and Ludacris appearing in Pepsi commercials.
The show carries the brand's name as well as a Pepsi logo with headphones prominent in the background as the musicians perform. There are also 30-second spots for Pepsi among other advertisers. There are no product placements. Both Pepsi and The WB said the Pepsi logo's appearance is subtle.
Pepsi Smash is a new concept in the United States, but it's nothing new for the brand worldwide. Pepsi sponsors top 10 countdown shows in Europe and Latin America. Dececco said that it made sense that Pepsi would partner in a project like this with a young-skewing network like The WB.
"The WB is one of the hottest networks out there for teens," said Dececco. "They're one of the teen destinations, which makes sense for us."
The WB had shot a pilot that would bring the UK's seminal Top of the Pops to the United States, but it didn't make it. The idea surfaced again when Pepsi and The WB started talking.
"We like the way we fit with Pepsi. The two companies are very similar, both youth-targeted," said WB spokesman Keith Marder. "We look at this as a way to extend our brand, a show that we should be doing."
There aren't immense expectations for ratings, not only because of lessened viewership in the summer but also because musical programs don't historically do well in primetime. Witness American Bandstand, which quickly returned to ABC's Saturdays and Hullabaloo, which lasted only 14 months on NBC.
"We're not making any predictions that that's going to be a Top 10 show, but it's a great way for us to have a fun summer," WB exec Brad Turrell told the Television Critics Association last week. "It's a live music event to appeal to our youthful audience, especially as a promotion before the fall kicks in. Live music on primetime, it's not there, so it's fun for us to do it."
Pepsi and The WB both make heavy use of contemporary music.
"With Smash, it is continuing to plant our roots in music. Music has always been an important part of our brand. It's what keeps us relevant, keeps us more hip than the other guy. That's why we're doing it," Dececco said.