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1/25/99 - May The Fizz Be With You

For ad aficionados, the Super Bowl is the annual kick off of some of the New Year's heavy-duty campaigns. The stuff that might very well wind up sweeping awards shows. Yet, this year, one of the annual star players will be missing from the roster--Pepsi.

Ad Age reports that they're saving their budget for "the key spring and summer seasons." I suspect they may have bailed out of the Bowl because they're sponsoring an event of other worldly proportions-- the new Star Wars movie.

The launch of Star Wars Episode One (Lucas is still debating whether to stick with The Phantom Menace subtitle) is sure to be the biggest international brand campaign of the year. And Pepsi has the good fortune of being the official taste of a new generation of Jedi.

They'll be unleashing the full power of the Force in their quest to conquer the soft drink universe. A leaked marketing plan states that 8 billion cans of Pepsi will feature 12 different Star Wars characters. The accompanying promotional contest will include golden Yoda cans randomly placed in cases for instant prizes.

Of course, this galactic alliance is in keeping with Pepsi's tradition of executions that latch onto whatever's currently popping in pop culture. They even had a cost effective/celebrity-free summer promotion last year based on catchphrases called "Pop Culture."

It's all part of Pepsi's consistent positioning as the "hip" alternative to Coke. In one way or another, they've built equity and differentiation with a "for those who think young" strategy since the 60s. Whether it's a celebrity, a song or Speilberg-inspired special effects, Pepsi spots have an identifiable attitude.

So what's Coke up to this year? Well, judging from their campaigns since the CAA (and subsequently Edge Creative) switch in '91, they'll probably unload another grab bag of spots that only have Coke's world famous logo in common. It's also a safe bet that there will be little strategic relevance to the everlasting qualities suggested by the "Always" tag.

Or, to put it in Star Wars terms, unlike Pepsi, Coke will probably take the easy, undisciplined path and succumb to branding's "dark side."

Yoda would not approve.