New Pepsi Ads Hit and Miss As They Try and Ride Obama's Ascension

The new Pepsi ads that so clearly try to play off an otherwise capture the moment of Barack Obama’s ascendancy to the White House hit…and miss.

This is the one that I think hits. Called “Pass,” it is a series of iconic scenes of history recreated by actors, such as the 1920s flappers, the Times Square kiss on V-E Day to drag racing in the 1950s to 1960s demonstrations and streaking, disco, break dancing in the 1980s and the Berlin Wall coming down. The ad is set to The Who’s “My Generation.”

The copy: “Every generation refreshes the world. Now, it’s your turn.”

As this came on TV during various inauguration coverage, the ad felt to me like a worthy piggyback ride on the mood and images of the day. To see the ocean of people of all ages braving freezing weather on the national mall to connect to the new President’s energy and share in a community of hope, and then to segue to this ad seemed like a good and inoffensive connection to make.

Then, there is this ad.

My problem here is the direct use of the phrase, “Yes You Can.” The campaign and movement around Obama’s candidacy and presidency was a special thing to witness. Support him or not, it was remarkable to see the level of engagement, especially among youth, in his campaign. The mantra of the Obama campaign, of course, was “Yes We Can.”

Call me cranky, but I don’t think an advertiser should lift this phrase for its own use, and especially not launch the campaign right around the inauguration. This is a special time in America—difficult and historic. This ad and its language comes off as a ripoff. Not an homage, but a ripoff. And it cheapens the ad and the campaign. It makes Pepsi look crass.

The new campaign is by TBWA/Chiat Day, which also does ads for Nissan and Apple.

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