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> 1989 Pepsi Advert Revisited, In light of Pepsi's recent controversial ad
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post Apr 7 2017, 10:30 AM
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BuzzJack Legend
Group: Chart Mod
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Following the controversy surrounding the recently pulled Pepsi advert, let's take a look back at Madonna's 1989 commercial.

The 1980s saw the two biggest soda pop manufacturers of Coca-Cola and Pepsi discover the impact of signing the hottest names in music to appear in their commercials. Partnerships with the likes of Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston had been extremely effective, promoting their products to young audiences who recognised and admired such stars, and it would become something of an event to see who would next be associated with these corporations. When Coca-Cola announced in December 1988 that George Michael - the 80s poster boy who had just experienced huge success with his debut album, Faith - had been signed to sell their product, all eyes were on Pepsi to see how they would top this. It turns out that negotiations had been in the pipeline for several months and, in January 1989, Pepsi revealed that Madonna would be the face of their advertisement. The terms of the whopping $5m deal were that Pepsi could use her and the then-unreleased 'Like a Prayer' in their television commercials for the year and would support her next world tour. Madonna would also use the commercial to launch the single globally before its actual release - a first in the music industry.

On 22 February, during the 31st Grammy Awards, a teaser was broadcasted, showing an Aborigine travelling across the outback to reach a TV in time for Madonna's Pepsi advert. The following week, the 2 minute commercial premiered during The Cosby Show, America's top rating sitcom. Titled 'Make a Wish', Madonna is shown watching home footage of her 8th birthday party. The images change and the actress playing young Madonna is now watching adult Madonna on the screen. Both versions of herself explore their new surroundings: young Madonna explores the house she would grow up in and adult Madonna dances in the streets and school of her younger self. When the time travel ends, adult Madonna holds up her can of Pepsi to toast young Madonna with her bottle of Pepsi. She tells her to "make a wish" and, as she blows out the candles, the Pepsi logo and "A Generation Ahead" appears on the screen. An estimated 250 million people watched the advert across 40 countries, marking the first time a TV commercial was given a worldwide premiere.

The original plan from hereon was that Madonna would debut her music video for 'Like a Prayer' the following day, a 30 second version of the ad would air throughout the summer and a second commercial would be taped later in the year, which would also announce her upcoming tour. She did indeed release the video but, as has been well-documented, it was seriously condemned and criticised by religious groups who called people to boycott Pepsi until they nullified their deal with Madonna. Pepsi made attempts to deflect the negative press away from them, questioning why the advert itself was under criticism when, before the 'Like a Prayer' video, it was viewed as completely innocent and had favourable responses. Madonna had even stated beforehand that the ad and her video would be very different presentations: "The treatment for the video is a lot more controversial. It's probably going to touch a lot of nerves in a lot of people. And the treatment for the commercial is... I mean, it's a commercial. It's very, very sweet. It's very sentimental". Pepsi pulled the advert from broadcast until it was clear whether the controversy would blow over or not, however, further complaints and threats of boycotting - and, quite significantly, a statement from the Pope that declared Madonna was banned from appearing in Italy - led Pepsi to agree to discontinue their association with Madonna.

Fortunately for her, Madonna was allowed to keep the $5m (after all, she hadn't broken any terms of the contract) and, despite the hassle it had brought to her door, the controversy seemed to feed the notion that "any publicity is good publicity" as 'Like a Prayer' went on to top the charts across the globe, including three weeks at #1 in both the UK and the US. The album was a huge success and, by the end of the year and indeed the decade, Madonna appeared on everyone's list of the most influential people of the 1980s.

What are your thoughts on the advert? How does it compare to other Pepsi/Coca-Cola ads? Are you old enough to remember watching the advert and the subsequent controversy?
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