Advertisers bring their A-game to Super Bowl commercials, often enlisting the help of a roster of A-list celebrities. In Pepsi’s 2018 Super Bowl commercial, you’ll recognize more than a few famous faces as well as the voice of one of the many Jameses of late night TV: Jimmy Fallon. As Pepsi confirmed in a recent press release, their latest commercial, which travels through some of Pepsi’s most iconic ads, is voiced by the easily excitable comedian.
(As a side note: I am entirely that person who will watch an animated movie with the IMDB page open to figure out who is voicing which character in real time. Nothing is quite so frustrating as thinking, “I definitely know that voice...who is that voice?” and then spending the rest of the movie entirely distracted by the fact that you can’t place that voice. Anyway, if you had that feeling during the Pepsi commercial, wonder no more: it’s Jimmy Fallon.)
Fallon is just one of the famous people featured in the full minute-long ad which plays heavily into Pepsi-centric nostalgia. It harkens back to Cindy Crawford’s iconic Pepsi commercial from 1992, this time alongside her son Presley Walker Gerber. It shows a short clip from Michael Jackson’s 1984 Pepsi commercial, perhaps best known for its fire-related incident. And what walk down Pepsi memory lane would be complete without a brief cameo from Britney Spears’ 2001 Pepsi commercial.
Here’s the full, Fallon-narrated commercial for your viewing pleasure:
Those are far from the only homages made during the commercial. The Super Bowl spot also references NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon’s Pepsi commercial from 2013 in which Gordon pranked an unsuspecting passenger as car salesperson on a test drive. It shows Ray Charles’ Pepsi commercial, which aired during the 1991 Super Bowl. Celtic’s player Kyrie Irving resurrects his Uncle Drew character from a 2015 Pepsi commercial. Marty McFly and Doc Brown also get their own shoutout in a ‘Back To The Future II’ homage in the commercial. In 2015, Pepsi actually introduced a limited-edition Pepsi Perfect bottle at New York Comic Con meant to look like the product referenced in the 1989 movie.
The commercial is missing a few noteworthy Pepsi commercial classics. Beyoncé’s 2013 Pepsi commercial (as well its parade of dancing Beyoncés) is nowhere to be found. And where is the Pepsi girl?! Hallie Kate Eisenberg is arguably the most recognizable Pepsi ad figure. (And because you were definitely wondering: yes, she is related to Jesse.)
Also missing from the spot? Any reference to 2017’s Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial. Of course, that’s probably for the best as many believed it capitalized on a serious social cause for the sake of selling soda. Pepsi quickly pulled the commercial and issued a statement in response to the backlash:
“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding, Clearly, we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”
Last year, a number of Super Bowl spots either alluded to politics or addressed some political issues head on. The Airbnb commercial themed “We Accept” was noted for its particular poignancy during a time of travel bans and racial tension. Budweiser’s commercial centered on the immigrant story and, in turn, prompted calls for boycott from those who thought the spot “too political.”
However, this year’s Pepsi commercial steers clear of any sort of political message. Given their recent misstep, that’s perhaps for the best. Does Pepsi nostalgia do anything to move the current cultural conversation? I mean, no. But is the momentary trip down memory lane a nice distraction from, well, the current cultural conversation? I mean, why else would over 100 million people be watching the Super Bowl.