Pepsi’s political advertisements

PepsiCo released a new logo with uncanny similarities to Obama’s campaign message.

Driving down Santa Monica Boulevard last week, I saw what I thought was an Obama billboard: âÄúYes You CanâÄù scrawled in bright, bold letters. It was actually an advertisement for Pepsi. In addition to hijacking the Obama campaignâÄôs catchphrase, Pepsi has recently unveiled a new logo that eerily resembles ObamaâÄôs campaign message. I wondered about the ramifications of this brazen marketing campaign. This new advertising plan, dubbed âÄúRefresh Everything,âÄù arrived just in time for the excitement of the new administration. In the days before the inauguration, Pepsi ads splattered the sides of buses and the outside of Union Station, covering Washington in distinctive posters that promote the soda while not-so-subtly endorsing the new president. On their website, users are encouraged to write a letter to Obama, the man who âÄúis about to refresh America.âÄù Clever parallelism. Many bloggers and educated consumers are irate, criticizing the subtle ploy and calling for a boycott of all PepsiCo products. Todd Lohenry, a conservative critic for The Right Side of Wisconsin, called on his website for a boycott of all Pepsi products due to the companyâÄôs âÄúshameless pandering to the Obama Oligarchy through the use of their new Obama-logo.âÄù But PepsiCo representatives defend the new campaign, claiming impartiality toward the new president. Nicole Bradley, a Pepsi spokesperson, said, âÄúPepsiâÄôs âÄòRefresh EverythingâÄô campaign signifies the prevailing spirit of optimism and renewal sweeping the country. WeâÄôre targeting anyone who embodies optimism and the spirit of youth.âÄù There is nothing wrong with targeting a cultural movement that embraces optimism; putting aside our differences for a uniting, positive spirit sounds like a wonderful idea. Yet it doesnâÄôt change the fact that many Americans who have seen the new campaign will likely be repulsed. What about the 46 percent of American voters who preferred John McCain? Pepsi may soon find out what those 58 million consumers think about the companyâÄôs deliberate support. PepsiCo has never been known for playing it safe. From the edgy Britney Spears and Beyoncé commercials to the dancing lizards with the short-skirted Naomi Campbell , they have always pushed the envelope. Even behind the camera, their policies have infuriated some conservative organizations. The American Family Association is currently boycotting all PepsiCo products due to their refusal to âÄúremain neutral in the culture war,âÄù according to their website. While remaining neutral doesnâÄôt seem like too much to ask, the worldâÄôs second-largest soda company recently donated $500,000 to the Human Rights Campaign (the largest and most powerful gay-lobbying group in America) and another $500,000 to Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. The Human Rights Campaign proceeded to donate $2.3 million to oppose Proposition 8, convincing some that every can of soda directly supports same-sex marriage. When Bradley spoke to me about the American Family Association boycott, she defended the company by arguing that the donations were labor-related, intended to encourage acceptance of the gay lifestyle in the workplace. âÄúWeâÄôre simply communicating our philosophy. Diversity and inclusion are among the values weâÄôve adopted for ourselves in the workplace because theyâÄôre important to our success âÄî both as individual employees and as a company,âÄù Bradley said. âÄúFor a company the size of ours, itâÄôs impossible to please all of the people all of the time,âÄù she added. True. But when weâÄôre talking about potentially alienating 58 million Americans, youâÄôd better tread very carefully. This column, accessed via UWire, was originally published in the Daily Bruin at UCLA. Please send comments to [email protected]