Monday, April 11, 2005


A cruel use-it-or-lose-it vacation policy is reintroducing me to all sorts of regressive, anti-intellectual behavior (hints: “Sin City” shows at 6:25 p.m. at Loews Boston Common; Honeycomb cereal is only $1 per box this week at Star Market and sweeter than real food).

I almost resented it when a Pepsi commercial raised me out of my alpha-wave stupor, but there was no keeping it from dragging me back to consciousness. I came to, snorting derisively and rolling my eyes.

Perhaps you’ve seen the ad: It interpolates new material with clips from the gladiator pic “Spartacus,” in which Kirk Douglas’ character so inspires his fellow slaves that rather than give him up for punishment, they stand up and claim to be him. (“I’m Spartacus!” “I’m Spartacus!”) The new material and clever editing makes it look as though instead they’re all trying to claim the Pepsi cola intended for Spartacus.

Yes, clever ... except that Pepsi has been claiming off an on since 1967, seven years after “Spartacus” hit cinemas, to be the choice of “the Pepsi Generation.” In 1984, it claimed to be “The Choice of a New Generation.” In 1992, it insisted its drinkers “Be Young. Have Fun. Drink Pepsi.” In 1997, it clamored for the attention of “Generation Next.”

It’s unclear how well it will speak to the demographically hot 18-to-34 set to harken back to a gladiator film old when the first Pepsi Generation was named. (I’m 36 and I’ve never seen the movie.) It’s more than likely that Pepsi would prefer to become the choice of a generation that can barely be bothered to watch “Gladiator,” from 2000, let alone a Stanley Kubrick flick from before the Beatles even landed. But at least it woke me up — albeit with a wicked aftertaste.


Brian Wanamaker said...

I think if there was more awareness of the Spartacus source movie, there would be less impetus to use the footage. They're taking a critical, emotional, cumulative moment and turning it into a teen-movie gag. That's, well, that' just normal, sadly. You get people who have never seen "Streetcar Named Desire" shouting "STELLA!" and people who've never watched Abbot and Costello asking, "Who's on first?"

I was going to point you to the larger pop-tragedy of using Britney Spears, Pink, and Beyonce in a gladatorial arena, singing "We Will Rock You" to Freddie Prinz, Jr. But Pepsi's Japan site no longer hosts the advertisement:

Scape7 said...

Coming up next: A Skittles commercial using footage from "Schindler's List"!