The three “Pop”s in the title above refer to that magical instance when: Pop (1) meets Pop (2) and it results in a Pop (3), a piece of pure perfection.
Or, to be less vague, it’s when Pop (Singers) collaborate with Pop (Drinks) to make commercials that become pieces of Pop (Culture) perfection.
Now, singers have been shilling sodas for decades, but starting in the early 1990s and peaking just over a decade later, the big soft drink companies of the world went all-in on their popstars + pop drinks mission, and the results just kept getting bigger and better. Today I’m going to touch on just a few notable ones that have remained my favourites over the years.
Also, be sure to check out the very end of the post for a little gem that predates this whole era and is not only a blast from the past but a blast of yesteryear pop culture that will blow your mind.
Paula Abdul (Diet Coke)
Paula Abdul brought a whole new visual dynamic to pop music when she burst on the music scene following years of choreographing music videos for other artists. It only made sense then, that in the early 90s she was tapped by Diet Coke to be their spokesperson and star in a series of commercials that utilized her talents as both a vocalist and dancer. The most notable of these was a highly ambitious project that took remastered film versions of older Hollywood stars like Cary Grant, Groucho Marx and Gene Kelly and integrated them into newly-shot scenes with Abdul (remember, this was LONG before CGI and hologramming). For Abdul’s part, she was already a pro at dancing with and reacting to someone wasn’t actually there (namely, one MC Skat Kat, the animated costar of her “Opposites Attract” video), so she’s aces all around. Also, I believe at the time, this was one of the most expensive commericals ever made.
Spice Girls (Pepsi)
Somehow during their non-stop whirlwind tour of world domination in the mid 90s, the Spice Girls found the time to do some shilling for Pepsi – and it was some serious, next-level cross promotion. In this particular advert, our lovely Spices are singing the track “Move Over” from their then-current second album Spiceworld. One of the oft-repeated lyrics of “Move Over” has the girls chanting “Generation Next, Generation Next”. And guess what Pepsi’s slogan at the time was? Yup. So, with Pepsi’s slogan earworming its way onto every Spice fans playlist, not only did “Move Over” become “that Spice Girls song in the Pepsi ad”, it became “that Spice Girls song that IS a Pepsi ad”.
Britney Spears (Pepsi)
And then there was Britney.
This is what I feel is the peak of the popstar/pop drink collaboration era, because I doubt we’ll ever see such a long-running, high profile pop/pop collab as the one forged between Britney and Pepsi. One that resulted in the pieces of pop culture that is their Holy Trinity of ads from the early 2000s. Each Pepsi commercial that Spears did was an EVENT and they were treated as such (and premiered during Super Bowls, natch). The first was a full-on music video, (Brit’s “The Joy of Pepsi” is closer to an actual commercial single than commercial jingle) with Britney and her legion of backup dancers taking over a Pepsi factory before relocating to a rooftop billboard (hello Justin Timberlake cameo!), while the third was a historical mini-movie set in the Roman Coliseum and featured not only Britney, but Pink (!) AND Beyonce (!!) as gladitors singing “We Will Rock You” (also there, in a non-singing role, Enrique Iglesias – because, why not?).
But my favourite was her second commercial (showcased below) which featured Britney in snippets of Pepsi ads from “across the eras” and fans could vote for which version got her full stand-alone commercial (decade-old spoiler alert, the 50s version won). How much do I love this one? Well, let’s just say that I ripped the audio from it, put it in my iTunes library and it is STILL one of my most top-played tracks ever (what that says about me, I’m not so sure…)
As I mentioned, since the Britney era we haven’t seen as many of the high profile pop/pop ad campaigns as before, but that doesn’t means the soft drinks companies have gone soft on pop stars. These days they just seem more focused on smaller campaigns featuring more “niche artists” like Tori Kelly and Janelle Monae. However, Beyonce did do an advert for Pepsi just a couple of years ago, that for some unknown reason was never released. But it is STUNNING, and it is right up there with the best from Brit’s heyday, so it’s being included here as well.
And now for an extra-special, way,way back bonus:
Ann-Margaret (Canada Dry)
This musical number/crash course in late 60s pop culture is BONKERS and I love it. If ever there was such a thing as a “soft drink expert”, Ann-Margaret has convinced me that SHE is IT, now and forever. Cheers!