Building on the 'Oh Yes Abhi!' philosophy, the new ad for the brand, set amidst a hunger strike, takes it to the next level where having a Pepsi is no longer an impulse, but 'an instinct'.
There is a popular Hindi adage - 'kyunki har kyun ka jawaab nahi hota' (Because there isn't an answer to every 'why'). The guy in the Pepsi ad, whose 'instinct' tells him to take a few sips of chilled Pepsi, certainly swears by it. The only catch being that he's supposed to be on a hunger strike!
The backdrop of the new Pepsi commercial has a lot of black - the colour of aggression and assertion. As a group of students stage a protest against the college administration, it is accosted by a reporter. The apparent leader of the gang informs her about the students' intention and their resolve to carry on with the hunger strike until their demands are met. While all this is going on, one of the protesters spots a bottle of chilled Pepsi in someone's bag; he grabs it and, instinctively, treats himself to a few swigs; his glug superimposing the leader's words "paani ki ek boond tak nahin piyenge" (students will not have even a drop of water). Startled, everyone in the crowd looks at him questioningly, only to be surprised further by his nonchalant answer, "Pepsi thi yaar, pi gaya" (It was Pepsi, I drank it).
Senthil Kumar, national creative director of JWT, the agency behind the campaign, tells us that the clever improvisation (the superimposition) on Udayan Chakravarty's copy was done by director Vivek Kakkad.
The ad that was released online has caught the audience's interest and one of the reasons, acknowledges Kumar, could be that it reminds them of the FTII strike - the simmering debate that has been going for months now. "There are probably over a hundred strikes/protests going on in colleges across the country right now, but people are relating the ad to the FTII strike because it is on the top of their minds. The resemblance is not at all intentional," he clarifies.
Kumar further goes on to say that the multi-media campaign carries forward the 'Oh Yes Abhi!' philosophy of 'live for the present, as tomorrow is too late'. "This campaign is also about consumption 'abhi' (right now), but the difference this time is that the brand is trying to own the instinctive space. It reflects the instincts of the youth," he states. This is the first in a series of ads planned for the campaign that will lead up to the next summer.
Some are loving the new Pepsi commercial, while others are remorseful about wasting their data on the download, but "the ad has been executed well and brings a smile when the guy says, 'Pepsi thi, pi gaya'," notes Shobhit Mathur, executive creative director, Hakuhodo Percept.
What he does, however, question is the aggression in the ad. "A couple of decades earlier, Cadbury Perk had come up with an idea of 'thodi si pet puja' with college students on a hunger strike. But, it was done in such an adorable way that it left you wanting for more. I can't say the same for this," he rues.
Mathur thinks that the ad lacks charm, positivity, wit and humour which is characteristic of the brand's communication. "Pepsi has always been a brand that was intrinsic to the idea. Whereas here, after four days of the hunger strike, if a samosa came in front of the guy, he probably would've eaten it and said, 'samosa tha, kha gaya!," he adds.
While the brand denies any intentional connect with the FTII strike, the ad has sparked off a debate among viewers and media for allegedly mocking the student movement.
Mathur agrees that the ad does remind one of the issue, but in his opinion, it’s not condescending. “Historically, Pepsi has taken up issues that were current and of interest to the youth, so is this one. I don’t see anything wrong with it, nor do I find it politically motivated,” he says.
Saji Abraham, executive director at Lowe Lintas has a very different take though. Viewed outside the context of the strike, he thinks, the ad is “middling funny”. “But given the current context of striking students it is in poor taste,” he remarks adding that even if the brand feels that the protest is unworthy, it should keep an eye out for what the current consumer sentiment is.
"Not intending to deliberately parody the students and yet produce an ad like this somehow doesn't compute. All on all an average commercial made perhaps on the principle that any publicity is good publicity," opines Abraham.