Dressed in a white tank top and washed-out blue shorts, a woman parks her bike at a deserted petrol pump on what looks like a scorching summer day. But it isn’t fuel she wants—it’s a chilled can of Pepsi Black. Two men gawk at her as she takes a refreshing sip of the drink and wonder what Pepsi Black is, after all. Simply put, “ye Pepsi Black kya cheez hai yaar.”
Regurgitation trumping creativity
This visual is passé for more than one reason. First, men crassly ogling at women is
so 1980s. Second, this ad starring Jacqueline Fernandez is a recreation of an iconic
Pepsi advertisement from 1992, starring Cindy Crawford.
How many ’90s ad remakes are we about to see before marketers churn out some genuinely creative campaigns? Audiences have reached their saturation point and are getting increasingly tired. Sure, recycling is good. But advertisers should remember that ideas and creativity won’t cause global warming.
There’s a Hindi saying ‘nakal ke liye bhi akal chahiye’, which loosely translates to ‘it takes brains to copy correctly; Pepsi, however, seems to have exercised little brain muscle on this conceptualisation. The current trend in the ad world is celebrating the ’90s, and clearly, Pepsi has jumped on the bandwagon.
Even the idea of recreating this campaign doesn’t seem original—Cindy did it about 10
Ads reflect reality: they’re a creative representation of our needs being met. So the reason Cindy Crawford driving in the desert and taking a fresh can of Pepsi out of a vending machine worked was because this may well be the reality in rural America. But it’s hard to imagine a woman drive up on a bike in India’s Thar desert and chance upon a secluded. vending machine. For one, there are no vending machines there. So perhaps makers could replace this scene with retrieving Pepsi from a fridge in a local shop? This tiny tweak could’ve made it more relatable for Indian audiences and elevated it from a homage to ’90s America to a functional ad that stays in public memory. Guess Pepsi got lazy.
However, when it comes to acing the style and oomph that Crawford put in her ‘92
campaign, Jacqueline Fernandez hits the bull’s eye. The background music is quite cool, and Fernandes looks very sure of herself.
The ’90s fever
In her iconic, Grammy-nominated song, Willow, Taylor Swift sings, “I come back stronger than a ‘90s trend” after she’s “counted out time and time again”.
These lines are especially true for Indian advertising. After their relevance was questioned in the post-TV, paid OTT skippable ads era, the golden days of advertising were believed
to have been lost. So Indian marketers returned to that era to fish for ideas and find relevance again. It worked. But it may be time to stop rehashing old scripts and producing some original content now that viewers are interested again.
Uber Eats was the first to recreate these ads in 2018. They were massively successful.
The tagline tying the final thought was seamless, too—’purane prices, naya app’ or ‘old prices, new app.’
But this obsession with the ’90s blew out of proportion, with Cred roping in former stars to
create campaigns with a retro vibe. Likewise, in 2021, Cadbury recreated their iconic
advertisement of a girlfriend celebrating her boyfriend’s success by swapping gender roles.
Dunzo recycled a bunch of similar ads for its digital campaign.
Indian cola ads, with campaigns like Youngistan and Thanda Matlab Coca-Cola, Aaj Kuchh
Toofani Karte Hain, Darr ke Aagey Jeet Hai and even the debatable but eye-catching Slice
Aamsutra have historically been most successful. But they seem to be losing their fizz.
If companies are hell-bent on recreating old advertisements that evoke
nostalgia, perhaps they should go back in time and use this Coca-Cola ad starring Amir
Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Mahima Chaudhary.
This article is part of the Vigyapanti series, which reviews Indian vigyapans aka advertisements.
(Edited by Zoya Bhatti)