Twilight of the Superheroes

Last night I was in the Powell St. BART station returning home after seeing Twilight because when I am hungover and unslept I turn into a fourteen-year-old girl. For a couple of years now this station has almost exclusively run single-product campaigns, e.g. with every single billboard and pole-poster–at  least several hundred throughout the station–devoted to a single product. My fellow hungover friend knew the official term for this strategy: station domination.

The brand currently dominating the Powell St. station is Pepsi, in one of those campaigns that never states the product’s name — just an oblique URL (““) and Pepsi’s redesigned logo, which takes their old red-white-and-blue-balled lozenge and torques it:


It looks more like a airline logo now — and, of course, like the symbol for the Obama campaign. As I type this, I feel there must be at least 114 Bay Area and New York City–area bloggers writing identical posts about this very issue. Pepsi begs for the comparison — not just the logo tweak, but the campaign’s text: Refresh Everything and the attendant catchlines (several contain the word “change”) could have easily gone on an Obama/Biden bumper sticker. It all makes me want to play that classic parlour game,  Imagine What the Advertising Agency’s Meeting About This Campaign Was Like!!

  • Our logo is a lot like Obama’s. We need to turn this potentially diluting liability into a “positive” by co-opting the logo and the slogan. Change becomes refreshment, in every sense of that word: mouth-refreshment, cultural refreshment, political refreshment, spiritual refreshment. It’ll be a poppy, punny, sunny campaign: several billboards (and the TV spots) have the word POP (with the logo as the O) repeated with no context, so the meanings multiply: pop as in Midwestern for soda;  pop as in the Apples in Stereo track that accompanies the spots. Populism? Popularity? This country is behind Obama, and we’ll run the campaign where his support was strongest. The new Pepsi will be what fuels and refreshes this nation’s new Change-thirsty citizens.

The campaign is so obvious that it feels dumb to criticize it. It’s hard to imagine anyone missing the connection. Is this worth fighting against? Should we boycott Pepsi? Is there an editor who’d want an angry letter? Should I throw away my old Fun Trick Noisemaker CD?