Pepsi changes tack leaving Coke cold

By , agencyfaqs! | In | March 19, 2002
Pepsi kicked off round two of 'Cold War 2002' by changing the end of its recently released Fardeen-Rahul ad. Coke, it seems, has decided to play it cool this summer

Shakespeare, some say, had one problem. How to end his plays. Very often, he would think of the end first and then construct the story around its foregone conclusion. However, in this age, with money, stars and story ideas easily available, it seems easier for a single story to have multiple endings.

No, this is not another piece on Zee's Aap Jo Boley….

The new Pepsi commercial starring Fardeen Khan and Rahul Khanna - though it has been written about ad nauseam - is worth another look if only for the new twist in the tale.

The updated version of the Pepsi ad is the same as the first Fardeen-Rahul till the time Rahul, exasperated with the same kid coming back to him for more and more Pepsis, enquires, "Karta kya hai tera dost?" In the first ad the kid says, "Kuch nahin karta hai… pura din khali baitha rehta hai." In the new ad released on March 9, "…pura din khali baitha rehta hai" has been replaced with "…uska business bilkul thanda hai." The camera then cuts to Fardeen who asks, "Business thanda matlab?" "Cola-Cola!" chimes his little friend.

The significance of this version can only be understood after looking at the latest Cola-Cola ad. The new Coke ad (released March 9, 2002) has Aamir Khan, a tapori, walking up to a typical soft drinks counter and asking for a bottle of 'thanda' (something cold). When the guy at the counter rustles up a bottle of an orange drink, an obviously peeved Khan says, "Abey flowerpot, thanda matlab Coca-Cola. Samjha?" To drill the message home, Aamir says, "Ab tu bol, thanda matlab? Coca-Cola."

Pepsi's repartee was on air during the live telecast of the second India Zimbabwe Pepsi Cup one day international match at Mohali on March 9 - a mere four hours after the Coke commercial was launched. It's very obvious who Pepsi's jab ("Business thanda matlab?" "Cola-Cola!") is aimed at.

Pepsi however, insists it's an inspired idea - inspired by the positive feedback from the first Fardeen-Rahul ad. Says Rohit Ohri, vice-president and client services director, HTA, "The ad was really appreciated. It has the quintessential Pepsi irreverence." He says the second ending was put together to make the ad more relevant to the target group - the youth. "The ad is fun, subtle, impish but not mean - unlike the way Thums Up ads took pot shots at Pepsi. The ad is about being cool, smart and winning at the end. The refreshed ending packs more punch and fun and there is an element of surprise."

Surprise who? Not its competition, of course.

Shripad Nadkarni, vice-president (marketing), Coca-Cola India, has an interesting observation. "I am glad to put Pepsi in a reaction mode. I love setting the agenda. We come up with original ideas and wait for Pepsi to react to it. The new Pepsi commercial is yet another evidence of that."

HTA's Ohri takes his turn. "There are innumerable examples of Coca Cola lifting our story ideas. I do not want to delve much into this, since all that is known to the public. My question is what are the new Coca-Cola ads trying to say through 'Life ho to aisi? Okay, Aamir Khan helps people patch up, but who is he? A loner? What sort of life does he lead if he is all-alone and has to go back to an empty room? What is the take-out from the ad where Hrithik breaks into a dance in the middle of a desert? Coke has yet to give any meaning to 'Life ho to aisi'. The bottom line is that an ad should connect with consumers. Our consumers are young, fun loving, who want to make a quick buck and have a good time in life. The new Pepsi ad makes that connect by giving a new dimension to 'Life ho to aisi'. I am afraid Coca-Cola has yet to exploit its base line."

In contrast, Nadkarni believes the Aamir Khan ad has worked well for Coke. "In India 'thanda' is generic for soft drinks. And the brand Coca-Cola has occupied that position, by attempting to make Coca-Cola generic for 'thanda'. We have established our leadership by usurping the category altogether," he says.

While the cola majors continue their verbal fisticuffs, this "Second Opinion" posted on agencyfaqs perhaps, best sums up the crux of the battle!, "…Just when I thought Pepsi had gotten its act together (after last year's shoddy show) with the first edit of the Fardeen-Rahul ad, here it goes again, reacting to Coke's 'thanda' stance. Why are you reacting, Pepsi? You were cheeky when you made Fardeen say, 'Life ho to aisi'. Good. But now your definition of 'thanda' is labouring the point. Stop reacting - that's what did you in last year. For once, forget what Coke is doing and look at your consumer. Look at what he wants. He wants more ideas out of you, at least in terms of advertising. And you seem bent on delivering less and less..." © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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