Pepsi-Cola USA this week will kick off its 1985 advertising campaign by featuring singer Lionel Richie in a three-minute television spot that will be the longest product-oriented television commercial aired to date.
The Purchase, N.Y.-based company unveiled the new advertising campaign for its regular Pepsi brand at a sneak preview Sunday night for 1,800 bottlers who gathered at the Universal Amphitheatre.
The three-minute commercial, a sort of mini-rock video, is scheduled for a showing before the media today and will appear on the Tuesday night CBS broadcast of the Grammy awards. In the commercial, Richie, who has been nominated for four Grammies, talks and sings about the style, heart and beat of the "new generation."
Richie composed an original tune, "You're Looking Pepsi Style," for the commercial, and uses two other hit songs that have been altered to include Pepsi.
The commercial opens with an upbeat dance segment amid an urban street scene where the Pepsi logo is displayed in a neon sign and on a vending machine. It then leads into a scene of Richie autographing a Pepsi cup for a little girl and follows him on a visit with his grandmother. The three minutes end with a block party with 4,000 extras, many holding cans of Pepsi.
The three-minute Richie segment will be shown only once on conventional TV and will be broken into 30-second and 60-second commercials thereafter. The segment will be aired Wednesday as news on two cable-TV stations, MTV and VH1, thus giving Pepsi free exposure.
Pepsi hopes the new Richie commercial will attract as much attention as its 1984 commercials with rock star Michael Jackson. The Jackson campaign, composed of two separate, 60-second commercials that debuted on last year's Grammy awards broadcast, received even more attention because the young singer was involved in a much publicized accident during filming.
Pepsi's new Richie campaign is particularly noteworthy because CBS agreed to sell six consecutive 30-second spots for which the soft drink firm paid a total of $1 million. "I like to do things no one else has ever done," Roger A. Enrico, president and chief executive of Pepsi-Cola, explained during an interview. "CBS did not want to sell us three minutes of time, but once we explained the idea it was no problem."
Rather than marketing directly to young people, Enrico said, Pepsi hopes to associate itself with a youthful life style.
Pepsi hopes the Richie commercials, like those with Michael Jackson, will spur sales. Within 30 days after the initial airing of the Jackson spots, Enrico said, sales began to rise. "It was too much of a coincidence not to say the campaign had something to do with it."
He credits the campaign for helping to turn around a dip in 1983 sales of the regular Pepsi brand. Enrico said retail sales of the brand exceeded $4 billion in 1984, posting the best growth in about half a dozen years.
Enrico said Pepsi sales grew faster than the overall soft drink market in 1984, which posted a 5% increase.