Pepsi: A Star-Studded Affair

By Sohini Sen , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | March 17, 2015
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The cola giant's new campaign features not one but three celebrities vying to steal the show.

This World Cup season has made a lot of brands hit their best advertising shots. Some, like the Fevicol border ad, have been a favourite, while some, unfortunately, have been shown the door by viewers. Incidentally, PepsiCo has also released its first campaign of the year. While it has nothing to do with the World Cup tournament, it does feature three of the current biggest stars in Bollywood and cricket.

The 'Live It Abhi' campaign from PepsiCo features actors Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma and cricketer Virat Kohli. While Kohli plays on the field, Kapoor decides to steal the show by doing some stunts on the ground. However, he doesn't succeed - except for catching the attention of a pretty damsel Sharma. It ends with the voice-over declaring "Yehi Hai Moment, Live It Abhi!" (this is the moment, live it right now).

Pepsi's Time to Dikhao film

Pepsi even went a step ahead and launched a trailer to the film

The campaign shifts the focus slightly from the earlier Pepsi tagline, 'Oh Yes, Abhi', which signified the 'living in the moment spirit' of the youth. Does this shift the product in any way then?

According to Anuja Chauhan, creative consultant, JWT and part of JWT's Power of One (Po1) team, which looks after the PepsiCo account, the brief was to razzle-dazzle, entertain, as well as genuinely connect.

"We're bringing alive the philosophy of 'life is not a spectator sport'. If you get an opportunity, act on it - it's better to try and fail than to do nothing at all," explains Chauhan.

Ruchira Jaitly

Anuja Chauhan

Ruchira Jaitly, senior director marketing - social beverages, PepsiCo India, says, "Pepsi has always shared a strong and culturally-relevant connect with the youth. We have been an integral part of Indian pop culture and shaped opinion at every stage. This year is extraordinarily special at Pepsi, as we make the young Indian the focal point of all our campaigns and activations. In 2015, the consumer is 'front-and-center' for Pepsi, not just as a target audience, but in a much more exciting and meaningful way. This year, we will engage with the Indian youth, in a manner that has never been seen before in India."

Did the story require the gamut of celebrities that can be seen on screen? It is not often that we see big names of Bollywood and cricket coming together for one spot. Though, to be fair, Pepsi has had campaigns earlier featuring Sachin and Shah Rukh Khan, where the actor goes to play in place of Sachin, just so he can have a sip of Pepsi, and the one starring Khan, Rani Mukherjee and Kajol after their hit pairing in the movie 'Kuch Kuch Hota Hai'.

Chauhan says that the script dictated the casting, not the other way round. "The idea was to show a regular Joe, trying to steal the limelight from the big star of the moment. The regular Joe ends up making a fool of himself, but he does catch the eye of a lovely young lady at the match - therefore, one must always try - that's the message we're sending out," she adds.

Meanwhile, with the World Cup season gaining momentum, brands have brought out the best of their creative communication to stand out from the crowd. Does that put pressure on Pepsi? It probably does, which is why the brand released a trailer of the video a few weeks before the film went on air. In the trailer, a few more big names make an appearance, including music director Pritam, choreographer Terence Lewis and director Anurag Basu (best known for his films 'Murder', 'Kites' and 'Barfi'). All celebrities - including the ones who come on screen in the final video - claim that the upcoming Pepsi film revolves around them, thereby creating a buzz about what the campaign could actually be.

Does it, then, finally stand apart from the rest? Is it what one would call its best shot? Few agree.

Rohit Malkani

Nisha Singhania

Rohit Malkani, or Popo, chief creative officer, Minority Brand Creation and Management, feels that it is not memorable.

"The production is tacky. We can easily understand that the green screen has been used, making it look like a cut-paste job. Also, it's not a property that is hugely different. I wasn't even laughing at any of the gags. The sad part is, we have seen much better things coming from Pepsi than this," says Popo.

Pepsi's ad film has not impressed Nisha Singhania either. She is quick to point out that most ad films aired during the World Cup has left no impression on the viewer.

Singhania, co-founder and director, Infectious Advertising, says, "Some movies in Bollywood tend to make crores because they have a Shah Rukh or a Salman Khan, even if the movie doesn't make any sense. Similarly, this ad has a lot of star power, so it will get watched. But, I do not see anything to remember it by."

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