Neha Kalra

Coke and Pepsi: The war is on!

The spoof gimmick for the season has started, but this time, it is not limited to the cola category

They say that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. But with the two soft drink majors, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, beginning the summer with new ads and then spoofs of each other’s ads, it’s clearly not indifference that we’re seeing here. Rather, it would seem that entertainment time is here.

PepsiCo’s yearly strategy is to pick up a mint new concept for the flagship brand, Pepsi, and focus all its communication around it. This year, it coined the Youngistaan concept – and that was the beginning of the spoof saga.

PepsiCo’s first Youngistaan ad featured Hindi film actor Ranbir Kapoor trying to climb up to the balcony of his girlfriend, Deepika Padukone, for a Pepsi (ostensibly) and crashing down before Padukone’s irate brother, played by superstar Shah Rukh Khan. Questioned by Khan, Kapoor casts around and comes up with the reply that he is an extraterrestrial being from Youngistaan, who has come to protect Padukone. The gullible Khan lets him into the house. In the next scene, Kapoor is shown comfortably ensconced in Padukone’s room, asking her for the Pepsi. The tagline comes on, ‘Yeh hai Youngistaan meri jaan.’

Coca-Cola’s brand, Sprite, which sports the tagline, ‘Seedhi Baat, No Bakwaas’, spoofed the ad by showing a Kapoor look-alike seeking to gain entry into Padukone’s house, but being turned away by a Khan look-alike. While this is happening, the Sprite model comes up and rings the doorbell. When Khan asks him where he’s come from, he says he is a neighbour. Khan lets him in without a fuss. Then the punchline appears, ‘Yeh hai Hindustan meri jaan’.

Coke and Pepsi: The war is on!
He couldn't afford to lose...his thumb?!
Coke and Pepsi: The war is on!
Disgusted girlfriend
Coke and Pepsi: The war is on!
Pepsi boys
Coke and Pepsi: The war is on!
Mockery session
Coke and Pepsi: The war is on!
Pepsi Power
Coke and Pepsi: The war is on!
...Youngistaan meri jaan
Pepsi was not going to keep quiet. And here it is, with a spoof on Coca-Cola’s second cola brand, Thums Up, mocking the macho stunts by actor Akshay Kumar, which most Thums Up ads play up to the hilt.

The latest Thums Up ad, shot in Malaysia, depicted Kumar with his girlfriend, zipping in a car through narrow backstreets for a bottle of Thums Up. Once he’s got his Thums Up, however, Kumar relaxes and the car crashes. In the next scene, he is in hospital, heavily injured, but happy because his Thums Up is safe. His girlfriend is miffed, however, and leaves him in a huff.

The spoof, which promotes the Pepsi My Can, opens on an injured look-alike of Kumar in hospital, looking at his thumb (for Thums Up?) and saying to himself, “Agar tumhe kuchh ho jaata to?” His girlfriend smiles to see his concern for her, but then realises he’s referring to his thumb. Just as she is about to walk away in a huff, two young boys step in to show their concern for Kumar. One of them asks, “Kya hua Uncle? Traffic police ne maara?” The other responds, “Shayad public ne maara hoga. Kyoon is umar main aise gaadi chalate ho?” The two keep bantering in this vein, till finally, one of them asks, “Kya Uncle! Kya ek bottle ke liye sab jagah ghoomte rehte ho?” The other guy quips, “Pepsi piya karo, har jagah milti hai.”

In 2007, PepsiCo launched the cola in a different packaging – in the Pepsi My Can. Actors John Abraham (who endorses Diet Pepsi) and Shah Rukh Khan endorsed the new brand. The “Uncle” line in the new spoof ad is drawn from the first commercial for Pepsi My Can.

Talking about the spoof on the Thums Up ad, Hari Krishnan, vice-president on the Pepsi business, JWT (the creative agency for Pepsi and PepsiCo’s snack brand, Frito Lay), says, “Some situations lend themselves brilliantly to making a point about the old giving way to the young. Youngistaan taps these opportunities. I am sure, if we look closer, we can have Youngistaan’s take on practically every campaign on air.”

A Coca-Cola spokesperson refrained from commenting on the competition’s marketing strategy. Speaking about the strategy for Sprite, which took on Pepsi’s Youngistaan concept, the spokesperson says, “Given the clear positioning of Brand Sprite of stating facts as they are (‘Seedhi Baat, No Bakwaas, Clear Hai?!’), all strategic communication on the brand is designed to bring out this attitude.”

Why the spoof on Youngistaan? The Coca-Cola spokesperson says, “Apart from its refreshing taste, Sprite continues to grow from strength to strength because it has stayed true to its attitude over the years. The brand is all about puncturing pretence, cutting through the chase and stating facts as they are.”

Talking about ‘stumping’ each other, the spokesperson from Coca-Cola says, “I am not sure what one means by stumping each other. We are always on the lookout for opportunities to engage and excite our consumers through our diverse portfolio, and while doing so, the challenge really is to be innovative and to connect with the consumers.”

No one from PepsiCo was available to comment on the issue.

Krishnan talks about the cola wars and the other categories that use the same technique. He says, “There will be points and counterpoints. In a non-serious, impulse driven category, people will be entertained. However, loyalties don’t budge so easily in a taste-led category. Spoofs derive an immense amount of buzz among people, which is very healthy for the category, especially in an environment where technology and other brands have weaned away consumer attention.

“It is common to see ruthless comparative analysis of competing brands, especially in telecom, durables and auto advertising. There’s a bigger war out there. However, we don’t see spoofs on the competition’s creatives in those categories. Consumers take these categories seriously and wear their ‘rational’ hats while comparing. It’s not about which ad is clever – it’s about which is a better deal.”

The spoof on Thums Up picked up momentum through – the ad isn’t seen too much as yet on TV. Krishnan says, “There is no well-engineered strategy except that the buzz started in a much bigger way over YouTube after some consumers posted it there. They seem to have downloaded it from, where we post all our new commercials. Viewers will see more of the commercial on TV in the coming days.”

In 2006, Coca-Cola spoofed the Pepsi TV campaign, which featured Khan, Priyanka Chopra and Kareena Kapoor. In 2005, after a two year break, PepsiCo rolled the dice first, by preparing a spoof on Thums Up for its lemon drink, Mountain Dew. In the Oye Bubbly campaign, it mimicked the voice of Virender Sehwag, the only cricket player endorsing Coca-Cola at that time. In 2002, Coke used the communication for its brands, Thums Up and Sprite, and celebrities such as Salman Khan and Sushmita Sen to make fun of PepsiCo’s products, including the then newly launched Mountain Dew. In the same year, Sprite spoofed Pepsi’s ad which featured Sachin Tendulkar and Amitabh Bachchan.

Krishnan recollects having seen several international Coca-Cola and Pepsi spoofs on each other. “Off-hand I can remember two brilliant examples, Shady Acres, and another one in which a little boy purchases two Coke cans from a vending machine, only to stand on them to reach the Pepsi button on the machine.”

A source says, “Advertising is as much a part of communication as the brand and the brand experience. Pepsi has it in its DNA to take up such gimmicks just as much as Sprite has.” The source goes on to say, “These spoofs have no sales intention; it’s only to make the brand stick in the consumer’s mind. They are not tactical in any way.”

“The first time the word Youngistaan rung in my ears, it sounded good. But I think Pepsi and JWT could do a better job with taking the concept further. I think they should have used Mountain Dew as the brand for Youngistaan rather than Pepsi,” says the source. “Pepsi and Coke are ‘new news’ brands, and this kind of a situation is important when deeply competitive products are in question.”

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