Pepsi Max gets a big kick-off

Pepsi Max makes its world debut Jan. 27 in Canada with advertising that targets 'switchers,' those who change back and forth between Pepsi and Diet Pepsi as they wrestle with that age-old conundrum - taste or low calories.Researchers for Pepsi-Cola Canada...

Pepsi Max makes its world debut Jan. 27 in Canada with advertising that targets ‘switchers,’ those who change back and forth between Pepsi and Diet Pepsi as they wrestle with that age-old conundrum – taste or low calories.

Researchers for Pepsi-Cola Canada Beverages found that one-third of all soft drink users fall into the ‘switchers’ category.

Pepsi Max, a mid-calorie cola blending sugar and sugar substitutes for the full flavor of Pepsi, with one-third the calories – about 60 per can – fills the void between the two extremes in the cola world, regular and diet.

Only in Canada

The new product, on some store shelves for the past few weeks, was developed over a two-year period by Pepsi Canada, and, for now, is only available in Canada.

The primary Pepsi Max target is also midway between the younger regular Pepsi market and the older Diet Pepsi focus, Generation X.

The latter, the 28 to 35 age group, is becoming more health-conscious and can no longer get away with drinking high-caloric colas without weight gain.

Pepsi expects Pepsi Max to be a big hit and is showing its confidence with an enormous advertising push.

The company has designated Jan. 27 as Pepsi Max Day.

There will be a full-color launch ad in major market dailies, accompanied by radio and tv commercials.

More than one million cans of Pepsi Max and a special-offer coupon will be delivered to front doors in major centres across Canada and another one million distributed though in-store sampling programs.

David Crichton, copywriter for Pepsi agency J. Walter Thompson in Toronto, in describing how the creative process evolved at the agency, says:

‘The premise, all of the taste, with one-third the calories, was very strong but a double-edged proposition,’ Crichton says.

‘Hence, we came up with the theme line, `The Best of Both Worlds,’ which specifically relates to regular and diet,’ he says.

Part of the result is two 30-second tv commercials that address the two schools of thought, taste or low calorie, using well-known duos humorously debating those weighty issues.

Crichton says the campaign uses no music, no jingle, and is simple and direct, but also quite funny and entertaining.

‘I don’t think anyone is going to turn the channel on these spots,’ he says.

Sitcom stars

The pairs chosen by jwt are familiar u.s. sitcom stars whose tv characters are prone to friendly verbal jousting: John Ratzenberger and George Wendt (Cliff and Norm of Cheers fame) and Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jason Alexander (Elaine and George of Seinfeld.)

Crichton says each commercial is written in character and only exists because of the product.

‘Our intent was never to have celebrity spots where the product becomes a prop,’ he says.

‘The whole conversation, all the jokes, revolve around Pepsi Max.

‘Everything we’ve done has – and I’m not just saying this because I wrote it – an intelligent humor to it.

‘More intelligent’

‘It’s a little different than the younger Pepsi target, a little more intelligent, much the same as the sitcoms these people were originally in.’

In each spot, one character represents taste, and the other, calories.

In the Ratzenberger/Wendt execution, Ratzenberger is his ‘know-it-all’ Cliff character, more caught up in how Pepsi managed to get all the taste and one-third the calories. Wendt, on the other hand, does not care because it just tastes good.

In the case of Alexander and Louis-Dreyfus, Alexander wonders what is to stop some Pepsi bigwig from just slapping some false labels on the cans? Louis-Dreyfus explains, jail.

The radio campaign, three 30-second spots, again uses two people, although not the celebrities.

The premise is the same, one of the pair believes he has figured out how Pepsi achieved taste plus low calories, such as by adding more bubbles because bubbles do not have calories.

Billboard, coming at a later date, and newspaper advertising use copy only and take a heavy branding approach.

Filmed in L.A.

Although the creative is all-Canadian, the tv commercials were filmed in Los Angeles.

They were directed by Gary Johns of Los Angeles-based Johns & Gorman Films, whose principals are a former award-winning Chiat/Day creative team.

Sound was handled by Ted Rosnick of Toronto’s Rosnick McKinnon.

Other J. Walter Thompson credits include Lesley Parrott, producer, and Graham Lee, art director.