Pepsi’s Beyonce ad campaign: some 15 minutes of fame longer than others

Pepsi’s just-launched ad campaign with Beyonce encapsulates the rebranding strategy of the soft drink that has traditionally been seen as number two to Coke.

“Consumers are seeking a much greater authenticity in marketing from the brands they love,” said Brad Jakeman, president of Global Beverage Group (which owns PepsiCo), last year. “It’s caused a shift in the way we think about deals with artists, from a transactional deal to a mutually beneficial collaboration.” In other words, instead of just a one-time payment or royalties for appearing in and ad, Pepsi will also be involved with the creative projects of their artists.

pepsi_beyonceThe company has been rethinking its approach to rebranding since 2011, when it shifted its tactic from the “global coordination” of its divisions to “global management” under GBG, which began overseeing the marketing of Pepsi and other brands. Previously, divisions dotted around the world had had much more freedom to craft their own marketing strategy.

But there was also another shift. Massimo d’Amore, Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo Beverages Americas, said that they were beginning to go to market sooner. “It’s better to go to market faster,” d’Amore said, ”because of the pace of innovation, with stuff that’s 80% or 90% finished, than to go for absolute perfection and be much slower… I believe there’s nothing wrong with correcting while you’re doing things.”

Social media and blogging has begun to influence advertising to the point where, with Pepsi, it might even be thought of as interactive. As d’Amore said in 2011, ”we develop new ads using the best judgment of our team and the agency. We put them on the air and for the first 24 hours we track what’s being said. … If needed, we go back in the editing room, and fix it.”

What, then, are blogs saying about the new Beyonce ad? Well, so far, not that much. The images of the singer, in Warhol, Pop Art style, are being posted on lifestyle and music blogs, and MTV and one or two others have noticed  the origins of the aesthetic.

Beyonce appears in the ad images in the persona of Edie Sedgwick, one of the late Sixties models known as the “Youthqualers.” Although youth culture had existed before (such as the Rock ‘n’ Roll of the 1950s), it was in this period that it was really emerging as the most powerful consumer force. With the Youthquake generation, glossy magazines, cosmetic and  fashion companies, and others besides, had found a rich new market to tap. Models like Sedgwick were simultaneously the face of that generation and the products it was being sold.

But there’s something of a twist. Sedgwick also inspired Andy Warhol, the avant garde artist, who had established his famous and infamous studio, the Factory, in New York.

Warhol even wore a blond wig, in emulation of Sedgwick’s blonde hair.

The Factory would attract not only Sedgwick, but a host of curious characters from drag queens to the Velvet Underground. Its partly through the Factory that new ideas about morality, sexual freedom, and so on, emerged into mainstream society a decade or so later.

Aside from his silk screens, Warhol also left us with the phrase “famous for 15 minutes” after his quip that, “in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” Although seemingly bizarre, illogical and impossible at the time, Warhol’s utterance is widely regarded to have come true in the internet age, especially with the blogging and tweeting that Pepsi now closely monitors, and uses to finesse ad campaigns as they hit the ground running.

Warhol was right about fame and time, but unlike Einstein, he didn’t grasp the notion of relativity. Put simply, some 15 minutes of fame may last longer than others. Like other brands, Pepsi takes on board those “15 minutes of fame” of numerous social media activists and bloggers, as they emerge in search results, to ensure the longevity of their brand.