Madonna - Like a Prayer Remix
"The Madonna/Pepsi Controversy"
It is January of 1989, and the highly popular Madonna has recorded a new album that is a mixture of personalized ballads and celebratory dance tunes. So where's the controversy? She wrote a song about her divorce, the death of her mom, and the fact that she still doesn't see eye-to-eye with her dad. Big deal. Where's the scandal? Here's where the plot begins to thicken.
In the past five years the two top soda pop manufacturers, Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola, had learned that an effective way to reach the youth of America and the rest of the world was to sign sizzling hot recording stars to do television commercials publicizing the cola of their choice. It had worked brilliantly with Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston -- why shouldn't it work with Madonna? Madonn'a hit songs and videos had been about love, devotion, and searching for the latest party. She ought to make an excellent spokesperson to reach teenage consumers. So ran the thoughts of executives at Pepsi-Cola when they began pursuing Madonna for their 1989 celebrity commercials.
In December 1988, Coca-Cola announced that it had signed George Michael to sell its pop to the public, and the gears started to turn. On January 25, 1989, following eight months of negotiations, Pepsi announced that they had signed Madonna to a year-long endorsement contract, for which they would pay Her Virginness $5 million. In return, Madonna would appear in a series of television commercials and Pepsi would sponsor the singer's next concert tour, tentatively slated for later that year.
Pepsi was undaunted by Madonna's image in the tabloids. "Her appeal is in her music and her acting. That's where people's interests are," announced Pepsi spokesman Tod MacKenzie.
The truly unique aspect of Pepsi's deal with Madonna was its sheer marketing brilliance. The plan was clever, tasteful, and right on target, to begin with. When controversy emerged it only placed a huge magnifying glass over the whole campaign. The by-product was a hundred times more publicity than they could have ever hoped for.
As originally outlined, Pepsi's projected plan went something like this: 1. January 25, Madonna signs her contract, and the next morning the deal become front page news in USA Today. 2. February 22, Pepsi unveils a commercial on the Grammy Awards telecast announcing the forthcoming March 2 debut of Madonna's Pepsi commercial. The upcoming event is heralded as the satellite premiere of the song "Lika A Prayer." 3. A 30-second version of the commercial will air through the summer. 4. March 3, MTV debuts Madonna's own music video version of "Like A Prayer," getting a month-long exclusive on the clip. 5. March 21, the "Like A Prayer" video and singles hit the stores -- and both become instant hits. 6. Madonna tapes a second commercial for Pepsi, which announces her upcoming tour. 7. Madonna goes on tour, which features Pepsi logos on everything. 8. Everyone makes a fortune.
What happened in reality is even crazier yet. Madonna had already met with Pepsi representatives to come up with the concept for the commercial. As planned, Pepsi paid her over $5 million for use of the song in the commercial, and production began immediately.
The director that Pepsi hired to execute the tightly scheduled video/commercial presentation was Joe Phytka, who had masterminded the landmark Michael Jackson ads for the company. According to Pytka, when he first drove to Madonna's Hollywood Hills house to discuss the commercial, she had no idea that she was expected to perform in it. "Michael Jackson had always used a special sound system for his singing, so I asked Madonna where hers was. She said, 'What singing?'"
Joe claims that she was also startled when he asked her to dance in the ad. But he felt that dancing was important for the ad because it's one of the main things that the public associates with Madonna. When Joe hired an outside choreographer, and Madonna saw the steps he was teaching the other dancers, she immediately insisted on doing her own dance.
Unlike Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, Madonna refused to insert the word Pepsi in her song for the commercial. "I wouldn't put Pepsi in any of my songs -- Pepsi is Pepsi and I'm me," she explained. "I do consider it a challenge to make a commercial that has some sort of artistic value."
When the Grammy Awards telecast rolled around, the planned "teaser" ad ran. In the ad, an Australian Aborigine is seen trekking for miles across the outback to get to a television in time to see the world debut of the forthcoming Madonna Pepsi commercial.