The Pepsi brand has been a coveted one since it started back in 1898. Celebrities from A-list entertainers to phenomenal athletes have represented the brand since its inception. And while it has never really come under fire in the past, it has probably experienced more backlash than ever thanks to a new commercial featuring reality star and supermodel Kendall Jenner. She has kind of been the one to get the most criticism, other than Pepsi itself, after the company, as it said in an official statement, “missed the mark” with its latest advertisement.
In the ad, Jenner was doing her supermodel thing in a snazzy silver outfit, blonde wig, and dark lipstick. She was summoned by an attractive guy to join a crowd of peaceful protesters. While it’s not clear what they were rallying about, it’s safe to say it could have been concerning inclusion and equal and fair rights. Whatever it is, it only took a Pepsi to ease the tension. Jenner grabbed an ice cold can that appeared to be quite refreshing, and handed it to one of the police officers who were tasked with making sure the protests remained peaceful. As if right on cue, actually it was right on cue, the police officer and his cop friends started smiling and all was well in the world of Pepsi…until the commercial actually aired. Less than 24 hours later the company pulled the ad and released an apology. But the entire situation has caused us to reflect on some of the best and worst Pepsi commercials that have ever hit our television screens.
Let’s start with the best, shall we?
15. Britney Spears
Britney Spears‘ Pepsi commercials don’t seem so bad when compared to Kendall Jenner’s. In fact, she’s been making headlines for why her ads are way better than the reality star’s. If this doesn’t ink her a new deal with the soda company, it at least brings a moment of nostalgia for the time being. Spears made her Pepsi debut at what is arguably the best time ever: The Super Bowl. It was Super Bowl XXXV to be exact, in 2001. The commercial cost the company 2.2 million. She did her tear-away pants choreography in the commercial that was considered a win for both Pepsi and Spears. Her next Pepsi experience came that same year and featured a different Spears for every decade beginning in the 50s. Her third one was pretty epic as it also featured Pink and Beyonce. That one was for the 2004 Super Bowl and cost the company $2.3 million.
14. Elton John & Melanie Amaro
Elton John‘s Pepsi commercial possibly goes down as one of the best of all time. It was yet another Super Bowl ad, this one for Super Bowl XXXVIII back in 2012, when the iconic entertainer was crowned the king of Pepsi. He was joined by none other than X-Factor winner Melanie Amaro as she belted out a pretty cool remix and rendition of Aretha Franklin‘s “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.” The hilarious commercial featured him wearing a pair of huge, gold platform shoes, a very lavish robe topped with Amaro’s amazing outfit of a blue, sequins top with a black skirt. In the ad, a group of “artists” performed for John in hopes of getting a Pepsi. He was not amused. That’s when Amaro came in and left him speechless. Elton John told Good Morning America his thoughts on the commercial. “I used to wear 8 inch heels shoes. These are just 3.” Oh, Elton.
13. Mariah Carey
We wouldn’t expect Mariah Carey‘s Pepsi commercial to be anything but bubbly, fun, and have a catchy song in it, which it did. It was one of those songs that made you go look to see if you had missed a bonus song from her new album. It featured a couple at a restaurant before switching to Mariah, who was wearing all white and dancing with her background dancers until she changed to a more evening friendly look with a blue motorcycle and a huge, blue Pepsi sign. The commercial was pretty cool as it revealed that the lights came with the ringtone and ended up blowing the electricity in a restaurant when a guy’s (the same one from the beginning) phone started ringing. He shouldn’t be ashamed at all to have a Mariah Carey ringtone. The storyline and plot were genius, impressive, and almost made me want a Pepsi…almost.
12. Ray Charles
Ray Charles become synonymous with Pepsi and vice versa after his hit commercial for the company. He even went the healthy route and represented Diet Pepsi instead of the original one. But he made it clear it still tasted just as good when he belted out a line that can still be heard today, “You got the right one baby.” He also had a catchy song that of course he played the piano for, as he sang, “You know when it’s right, you know when you feel it baby. You hold it, you feel it, taste it, it’s right.” That’s when dancers and background singers came into play as he described the Pepsi with a bunch of words that you really can’t understand unless you rewind the commercial a few times. But it still made you want to go try the Diet flavor. This definitely goes down as a commercial that the company got right.
11. Janet Jackson & Ricky Martin
The pairing of the Latino hottie Ricky Martin and the bombshell triple threat Janet Jackson was a genius idea from the people of Pepsi. She sang in the ad, “Feel you, hold you, so refreshing…” While she could have easily been talking about the heartthrob, Martin, she was clearly referring to Pepsi. And it didn’t take long before he added his sultry and sensual vocals as well. But they switched his up a bit as he sang in Spanish. Even those who don’t speak the language probably started craving a Pepsi after that. This commercial is also a good example of cross-cultural references done right as Jackson sang in Spanish in the end. In the end of the commercial, it was a Pepsi that brought Jackson and Ricky together. But not just for a cool, refreshing drink. They ended up getting pretty close and handsy at the end of the commercial, leaving the viewers’ imagination to decide what happened next.
Beyonce’s Grown Woman Pepsi commercial was amazing. The actual ad was titled “Mirrors” as Queen Bey’s different alter egos and most memorable video appearances came into play in a room full of, you guessed it, mirrors. From her unforgettable leotard outfit in “Single Ladies” to the short shorts and white tank top she sported in her very first video as a solo artist, “Crazy in Love,” Beyonce’s evolution played out in the commercial. It’s almost like she wanted fans to see how much she had changed as the commercial was released nearly ten years after Beyonce’s debut album came out, and maybe the evolution throughout her career was supposed to be the focal point. Either way, Beyonce nabbed a healthy penny herself for the deal that was reportedly $50 million. Interestingly enough, the company decided to part ways with her in 2015 and said they wanted to go for a more “relatable” approach.
9. Drew Brees & One Direction
This commercial between Drew Brees and One Direction was definitely swoon worthy. In the ad, Harry Styles goes back and forth with the Super Bowl champ for the last Pepsi. Styles’ One Direction bandmates help him try to prove that the group is more popular than the NFL star. Screaming girls chime in for One Direction but can that stand against Brees’s ultimate super fans who also make an appearance? Styles points out they’ve covered Billboard magazine and released a Platinum album while Brees lets them know he’s an NFL MVP. It looks like they’re both winning to me. Either way the commercial definitely sucks you in and even lets the viewer get out a couple of laughs as both Brees and One Direction are seen in a new but still positive light. In the end, Brees wins the Pepsi after he offers Styles a tryout. It was still fun to watch them battle.
8. Aretha Franklin & Hallie Kate Eisenberg
This classic diva’s Pepsi commercial has also gone down in history as one of the best. It even featured a new song called “Pepsi: The Joy of Cola.” But what made the ad still popular today is the idea that fans heard Franklin’s voice when actress Hallie Kate Eisenberg opened her mouth. Eisenberg and a man that appeared to play a grandfather figure stopped by a restaurant. The man behind the bar suggested a Pepsi and said he didn’t want to hear one of Eisenberg’s “crazy voices.” That’s when her inner Aretha Franklin came out and she told him, “Child, you ain’t heard nothing yet.” She proceeds to dance and sing with Franklin’s voice. We haven’t heard much from Eisenberg since then, but she’s still known as “The Pepsi girl” nearly 20 years after its debut. The song was also much of what made this Pepsi commercial an unforgettable one as the tune is still sung today.
7. Tina Turner & David Bowie
This is another genius ad. I mean, Tina Turner was such an underrated artist that it was sheer brilliance to feature her in an ad as big as Pepsi. The commercial shows Turner getting ready for a major show. But of course she can’t hit the stage until she grabs a Pepsi. A sip was all she needed to go out on stage and rock the crowd who was already cheering for her long before she belted out her first note. Pepsi’s are also very conveniently placed throughout the commercial including a major lighted backdrop and old school Pepsi bottles on the keyboard that bounces up and down with every beat. She sings out, “We got the taste for living, we got the taste for love…And we just can’t get enough!” I also have to note that Turner’s Pepsi commercial with David Bowie was great too! Titled “Creation,” it showed the two iconic entertainers coming together after a Pepsi spills in a science lab.
6. Cindy Crawford
This beauty tapped into her inner sexy for her Pepsi ad. The commercial showed Cindy Crawford getting out of a Ferrari with a group of teenage boys drooling over her. She goes to a Pepsi vending machine to grab and a can and drinks pretty much the whole thing right there, which seems to impress the juveniles even more. One of the kids breaks their silence in the 1991 commercial and says, “Is that a great new Pepsi can or what?” How adorable is that? It’s safe to say this was a win for Pepsi that year as they introduced the new look of the brand. It reassured fans with a caption that said, “New Look. Same great taste.” It got even better when Crawford and Late Late Show‘s James Corden reenacted the commercial for Super Bowl 50. Corden wore the same outfit and drank the Pepsi as two other young boys ogled over the can.
5. Kendall Jenner
Honestly, Kendall Jenner’s commercial wouldn’t have been so bad if it wasn’t for the last part involving the police officers. Pepsi was accused of making Jenner appear to be the savior of heavy movements like Black Lives Matter. Memes circulated around the Internet as fans said Pepsi made light of the police brutality and the shootings of unarmed black men, and suggested that all victims needed to do was hand police a Pepsi and they would have survived. Bernice King, the daughter of the late civil rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. also joined the conversation and posted a photo of her father in an altercation with police and wrote, “If only Daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi.” Pepsi released a statement and apologized to both critics and Jenner. “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.”
4. David Beckham
Pepsi learned a lesson the tough way when it tried to make a video commercial with David Beckham go viral on the Internet. The interesting thing is that it seems like a commercial with the soccer star would be a no-brainer, but apparently the brand thought way too much and tried a bit too hard to get viewers to drink a Pepsi. The commercial showed Beckham playing with a soccer ball when his friend asked him if he could hit a trash can that was far away. He makes his goal and whoever is behind the camera is in pure amazement and shock at Beckham’s abilities. Beckham gives the man a high-five, but not before he takes a swig of a Pepsi from the straw, showing the can. There was speculation that this video, which was strictly online, was Pepsi’s way of sending a subliminal message. If it was, it doesn’t look like too many people bought it.
3. Michael Jackson
One might think the King of Pop pairing up with Pepsi was a pretty good idea. And it was until taping the commercial nearly ended his life. Michael Jackson and Pepsi clearly wanted to go big for the ad that was taped back in 1984. But instead of convincing fans to buy more Pepsi, MJ’s day ended with him fighting for his life in the hospital. The star was filming for the commercial when something went wrong with the sparks flying and he literally caught on fire. He suffered third degree burns. It was reported that this is when his addiction to pain killers began. Interestingly enough, the original deal was one for $5 million. That was huge, especially back in the 80s. But the company ended up having to pay Jackson $1.5 million for compensation and then signed another deal with him for $10 million. It went toward his popular Bad album and the supporting tour.
2. Nicki Minaj
Don’t get me wrong, I love Nicki Minaj and all her Barbz, but her Pepsi commercial was a little underwhelming compared to the other ones that were great. On top of that, it might have cost her a pretty penny. First things first, as for the commercial, Nicki really didn’t come into play until the end. But it featured her hit song “Moment for Life” from her Pink Friday album. Her voice is heard long before we see her face and a guy and a girl go around town in the very cliché commercial as they are moving through freeze frames (it looks like some people in the commercial really did have that moment for life). They end up at a Nicki Minaj concert where two cans of Pepsi are there to greet them. Everything is unfrozen, including Nicki herself, as she performs and winks at the camera. The reason it could have cost her is because she nearly lost her position as a judge on American Idol, which is heavily sponsored by Pepsi’s rival Coca-Cola.
Beyonce isn’t the only pop star who Pepsi decided to drop after a major deal, but Madonna’s was three decades ago. Her two-minute commercial won her a $5 million deal, but it was pulled back in January 1989 after the company received controversy for Madonna’s song in the ad, “Like A Prayer.” Apparently many members of the Catholic church weren’t here for the religious connotation in the video for the song that included a burning cross and a seemingly satanic figure. Interestingly enough, it’s safe to say Madonna couldn’t wait for Pepsi’s demise. Because after its controversy with Jenner, Madonna shared a photo of herself carrying a Coca-Cola at the Grammy Awards in 1999. This was ten years after her fallout with Pepsi, and her shade toward Coca-Cola is about thirty years later. Madonna clearly still feels a way about Pepsi’s decision to pull her ad and won’t be supporting the company in the future.