Jo Anne after the show … before all hell broke loose
Watching Beyonce shatter mirrors in Pepsi’s “Live for Now” commercial reminded me of the night my wife almost became a casualty of the Cola Wars that have been ongoing since the 1980s.
Jo Anne was working as an event manager at a Pepsi show in Palm Springs. If you’ve ever produced an event for one of the warring Cola companies, you know the de regueur routine Jo Anne followed. She made sure the hotel's Food and Beverage department served only Pepsi drinks at meals, and she directed soda and snack machines throughout the venue to be switched over to Pepsi products.
If there was an exposure in the plan, it was the banquet act – The Beach Boys. Their rider stipulated Diet Coke. Period. So the show team hand-wrapped the Boys’ Coke cans in colored paper to conceal the names and logos.
Everything went swimmingly until the Pepsi meeting she was producing had ended – when client kudos were anticipated. As soon as the hundreds of happy Pepsi sales reps filed out of the ballroom, the show crew began breaking down the set. Load-out was well under way when one of the Pepsi executives wandered into the hotel ballroom where the event had been held.
The client, of course, was the only one to notice that sitting on the lip of the bare stage was an unwrapped can of Coca-Cola left behind by one of the Beach Boys.
The crew froze when they heard the aghast Pepsi gal shouting at Jo Anne about this unforgivable breach.
At moments like this, there is nothing for an event producer to do but fall on her sword. This ritual suicide by disembowelment with a sword, you may recall, was practiced in Japan by samurai as an honorable alternative to disgrace. It was known as hara-kiri -- belly cutting. Of course, what Jo Anne really wanted to do was yell back at the Pepsi gal, “What the hell’s in a name? They all taste the same!”
When you think about it, she had a point.
The Cola companies have always inflated their advertising with the magnificent jargon of consumer marketing – lost on most of us.
During the past half-century, both cola companies have flailed about, trying to define the persona of their respective sugar-water products.
I counted almost two dozen Coke slogans since 1961. Pepsi deployed fewer during the same period, but they were equally oblique to, say, Coke’s “Life Tastes Good” (introduced in 2001 and resurrected in 2013). Here’s a sampling of Pepsi’s slogans:
- "Now It's Pepsi for Those Who Think Young"
- "You've Got a Lot to Live, and Pepsi's Got a Lot to Give"
- "Pepsi's Got Your Taste For Life"
- "Pepsi. The Choice of a New Generation"
- "Be Young, Have Fun, Drink Pepsi"
- "Right Now"
- "Generation Next"
- "For Those Who Think Young"
- "Live for Now"
In introducing its 2013 campaign, Pepsi’s press release called it, “The next iteration of Pepsi's "Live for Now" brand spirit, which encourages fans to embrace the NOW and be at the epicenter of, and helping to define, pop culture.”