Counter-Cola: A Multinational History of the Global Corporation

Advertising a New Generation

In the 1960s, the generation coming of age in an era of unprecedented prosperity in the US was asserting an independent popular and consumer culture and soon-to-be insurgent youth politics.  And the existing advertising, print ads featuring “aspirational” images of all-white, upper middle class picture-perfect families and wholesome young people, the cloying jingles – like Coca-Cola’s “Be really refreshed” – this one from the McGuire Sisters in 1959 and the hokey and contrived dialogues of mothers offering teenaged son’s refreshing Cokes after baseball practice or two young women chatting over what food to serve alongside their “family-sized” Coca-Colas at their next party, failed to capitalize on the emerging youth culture. 

In the early-1960s competitor Pepsi was doing a better job of capturing their attention than the older, more established Coke brand, with ads that directly addressed them as fellow up-and-comers:  Pepsi was the drink “For Those Who Think Young” -- they were “the Pepsi Generation.” In the Pepsi TV ads, a quiet setting would be broken by the sound of excitement like that of a motorcycle or a roller coaster, and California teenager types would embark on a frenetic, somewhat anarchic adventure, shot with handheld cameras for a New Wave style or from dramatic angles (like helicopter shots) over which played lively music and a singer calling on youth consumers to “Come Alive!  Come Alive!  You’re in the Pepsi Generation.”[i] Pepsi would meet youth culture where it was, as the ad says, and even encourage generational identity formation and countercultural style along the way.[ii]
[i] Pendergrast, 274
[ii] Frank, 174-176

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