Pepsi spends over $1.3 billion on advertising every year, which has made their brand a ubiquitous household name. Since such a substantial amount of money is being spent on advertising in the competitive beverage industry, it is very important to critically observe how Pepsi tries to reach their audience. Many of Pepsi’s print ads and commercials feature slender, busty women sensually enjoying a refreshing can or bottle flashing the Pepsi logo. The above collage and clips show just a taste of the many scantily dressed women that have been itemized by the Pepsi Company. Although the product is marketed to males and females, there is an overwhelming presence of the female body in their overall advertising strategy. With such colossal opponents as Coca-Cola, it is apparent that Pepsi has turned to the “sex sells” idea, consequently making their merchandise advertisements provocative by utilizing the attractiveness of popular female celebrities and sexy one-dimensional women to reinforce that their product is the best on the market.
As Breazeale points out, “...precisely because consumption has been viewed as an attribute of middle-class femininity, some of our era’s most aggressively one-dimensional representations of women have resulted from attempts to court men as consumers.” (Breazeale 230) With Pepsi, singing and dancing hot pop stars seem to be a reoccurring theme. Although these celebrities might have likeable personalities, Pepsi doesn’t seem concerned with anything but how good they look while holding a bottle of their product, reinforcing hegemonic ideals. The consumer never hears any valuable opinion about the drink from the women they choose to place in their ads. The fact that they are drinking the cola at all is supposed to be enough for the viewer. By placing smiling faces and sexy young bodies in their ads, men are attracted to their product, making men a target audience. Women are already considered the main consumers as Breazeale has demonstrated. But, as a bonus, women also see these beautiful sexy women and want to do whatever it takes to resemble their sexual qualities. It seems to be a win, win situation. Women might be more likely to buy Pepsi over Coke simply because they’d rather be associated with beautiful women than say, an arctic polar bear (a symbol Coca-Cola often uses in ads). Also, men might be more likely to pick up a pack of Pepsi over Coke as they recall the sultry Latin woman on the beach who was sipping the Pepsi during a game’s commercial break.
Jhally states that “advertising absorbs and fuses a variety of symbolic practices and discourses, it appropriates and distills from an unbounded range of cultural references. In so doing, goods are knitted into the fabric of social life and cultural significance.” (Jhally 251) Pepsi provides a perfect example of this as they incorporate celebrities into their product marketing. By having the hottest celebrities of the time endorse their product (and maybe more importantly not their competitor’s), they are able to show their target audience that their product is good enough for the best of us, which is what celebrities are often considered. If a person is watching television or reading magazines where Pepsi ads are strategically placed, viewers are also seeing stories about celebrities and their fabulous lives via these same media outlets. For this reason, it makes sense for the advertising agencies to market to the middle-class viewers with sexy female celebrities they know, love, and envy like Britney, Christina, and Shakira,. Year after year, there are always going to be new hot celebrities to show as Pepsi drinkers, continuing the Pepsi empire. The sometimes unconscious desire to have the social life of celebrities makes viewers particularly vulnerable to any suggestion about how to reach celebrity status, especially if it is the hot young celebrity herself that is showing you which products she uses.
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