Many moons ago — in the late '90s / early '00s, that is — a dark and vicious war ripped the nation apart, and forced all of us into one of two very separate camps. I'm talking, of course, about the Great Soda War between Coca-Cola and Pepsi, in which millions of dollars and countless man hours were spent in the name of the race to become America's most popular carbonated beverage. In 2001, the latter company launched one of the most greatest campaigns in the war's history when Britney Spears started doing Pepsi commercials... and the world rallied to her cry.
For anyone who doesn't remember, Britney Spears' Pepsi commercials were one of the coolest things to come out of corporate advertising at the beginning of the millennium. Coca-Cola had always capitalized on Norman Rockwell-esque nostalgia and sentimental polar bears to sell its product (think of this as the Don Draper method — solid, but lacking in Britney Spears). Somewhere around the late '90s, however, Pepsi started targeting the demographics that Coca-Cola was missing — specifically all the young people who loved Britney Spears. Their targeting paid off.
Even today, the ads are a hugely successful merging of two brands (Pepsi and Spears). Part of why they worked so well is that they came during one of the highest peaks of Spears' career, which was just after her second album was released. She had mastered the fine line between girl-next-door and smoldering temptress, essentially making her the perfect icon to sell sugary carbonated drinks to hormonal young people. Just thinking about it makes me want a Pepsi!
The One That Started It All
The most immediately satisfying thing about the Spears ads is how damn catchy they are. In one of the Superbowl ads from 2001, Pepsi made the amazing decision to blend Spears' racy pop style with one of the old Pepsi jingles. The result probably could have made it into Casey Kasem's Top 40 if it had been just one minute longer.
A later ad featured regular people watching the original Superbowl commercial, entranced with Britney's hypnotic hips and infectious beats. It's legitimately pretty funny to watch a bunch of regular people trying to do Britney's dance moves, but even more better is Bob Dole's appearance at the end. That's right — 1996 Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole (and his dog) love Britney Spears just as much as us regular folks.
Pepsi Through The Years
How many times can one ad insist that it's "for those who think young?" As many times as it damn well pleases. This gem re-envisioned past Pepsi commercials and slogans with Spears as the spokesperson. In a retrospective series of clips, she recreates ads dating all the way back to 1958, moving through the 60's, 70's, and 80's with style and sass. The same part of your brain that responds to Mad Men's classy depiction of the past will be desperate for a Pepsi when you see this ad (if only so you're not caught "thinking old").
Finally, there was the spectacle. Spears' final collaboration with Pepsi was the end-all-be-all of celebrity endorsements, and it's a milestone in epic advertising. In addition to Britney, the three minute commercial stars Pink, Enrique Iglesias, and — the Queen B, herself — Beyoncé. Set in a Roman coliseum, Spears, Pink, and Beyoncé are all dressed like they're a part of Xena: Warrior Princess, and the ad showcases the three of them marching into the ring to sing Queen's "We Will Rock You." Buy Pepsi? Done.
Unfortunately, the union between Spears and Pepsi is long behind us, and, at this point, all one can do is hope that they will one day reunite. In the meantime, we'll simply have to look back and remember these crowning achievements in advertising — and rewatch them a few million times.