“The Pepsi Generation,” Nikki Resor (2011) — Inquiry 2

Writer’s Reflection

The advertisement I chose to rhetorically analyze was a Pepsi commercial that was aired in 2006 during the Super Bowl. This commercial features Britney Spears as an icon in past generations; each scene involves the refreshing goodness of Pepsi and how young people flock to the product. While I was writing my paper, I had to analyze the ways Pepsi used rhetoric to influence their audience. It will be of great help to you to explain the thoughts that crossed my mind while I wrote this paper.

After watching the commercial for the first time I immediately noticed the main way Pepsi was going about selling their product. Pepsi is displaying common American values with an emphasis on the importance of youth. I then thought about how ethos, logos, pathos, and style were being used in the commercial. I watched the commercial time and time again and was able to point out subtle and obvious strategies. My next step was to determine which category each strategy fell under and figure out why it was effective in selling Pepsi.

At first, I struggled when I tried to organize my paper because I didn’t want it to sound repetitive. I decided to explain the article in depth because I wanted my readers to understand exactly how the commercial was set up in case they had not previously seen it. The commercial displayed the rhetorical appeals separately as well as together. The pathos and ethos played off of one another by attaching appeal to tradition to the emotional appeal Pepsi created. The commercial also created credibility by using Britney Spears as a status symbol as well as a symbol for what young people are attracted to. The commercial used logos and pathos by saying that winners drink Pepsi; this relates to the positive attitude Americans have about winning and it makes the audience feels like they can be invincible if they drink Pepsi.

While writing my paper, I realized how important it is to be able to detect how the rhetorical strategies work together to become significantly more effective then if they were used separately. If an advertisement can combine ethos, logos, pathos, and style in a way that enhances their abilities to persuade an audience then they have advantage amongst their competitors. I attempted to highlight the ways that Pepsi used rhetoric and how those ways captured the audience mentally and emotionally. Persuasion is a task that is not easy; a rhetorician must understand their audience in all aspects in order to truly persuade them.

I hope my analysis of Pepsi’s commercial is one that is in depth and informative. If you have any insight or suggestions I would be more than happy to hear them.


Companies and brand name products have mastered the art of persuasion by using visual, audible, and psychological methods that we often don’t even recognize as rhetorical strategies. In terms of advertising, the art of persuasion has evolved over many years into the predominant way to win over consumers. One company that has been ahead of the marketing game for many years is Pepsi. At a time when advertisements were dry and lifeless, Pepsi created the “Pepsi Generation,” campaign and aligned itself with the positive outlook that young people in America felt so passionate about (“The Pepsi-Cola Story”). The baby-boomers had an insatiable zest for life and a thirst for a future full of excitement. In 2006 Pepsi showed a commercial during the Super Bowl that portrayed the common sounds, styles, and activities that were specific to each generation since the baby-boomers. By doing this, Pepsi has come up with an ingenious way to target multiple audiences at once. In this commercial, they have managed to target their familiar audience, the current youthful generation, as well as all older generations that were obviously young at some point. The concept of youth is one that has been treasured and embraced by Americans for many years. When people speak about their youth it is common to hear the phrases, “those were the days,” or “that was the time of my life.” In the American culture, being young is a time to experience everything that life has to offer; it’s a time when nothing is set in stone and you are free to break the rules and embrace excitement; it’s a time when nothing but the future lies ahead. Rather than creating a commercial that is only speaking to young people in this generation, they speak to older viewers as well by reminding them of times when they were young and carefree. This commercial takes its audience back through time to demonstrate Pepsi’s dedication to youth and American values.

The commercial starts with a scene in a diner during the year 1958. Britney Spears is shown on a black and white screen and is made up according to the well-groomed and polished style of women in the 1950’s. After a gentleman hands Britney a Pepsi, she innocently takes a sip and sings, “Pepsi, for those who think young.” She gives a flirty wink and then a new scene, still in black and white, shows the year 1963; a crowd of young people dances while a retro-looking Britney sings, “Come alive, you’re in the Pepsi generation!” The scene then transitions to 1966; a colored screen shows Britney running on the beach with a voluminous hairdo and grinning men chasing after her. The next scene is set in 1970; Britney is in a flower filled field, wearing bell-bottom jeans and swaying to the harmonious sounds of the people around her singing, “You’ve got a lot to live, Pepsi’s got a lot to give.” The scene then flashes to 1989 and Britney sings, “Simply irresistible!” Women in patent leather dresses dance behind her while she sings, “Simply irresistible,” again and then we see all of the scenes shown previously flash before our eyes in sequential order. The audience is now watching Britney Spears in a modern setting wearing an outfit, makeup, and hairstyle that fits her highly recognized persona. She is dancing and singing as the pop star young people know and love while she sings, “Ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba, the joy of Pepsi.” The commercial then shows Britney in each generation, dressed accordingly, but dancing and singing to the pop music sounds that young people in today’s culture love so much. The commercial concludes with the modern Britney holding out a can of Pepsi singing, “Pepsi, for those who think young.” She gives a flirty wink and the scene ends.

In this commercial, Pepsi stirs the emotions of their audience by bringing back fond memories of when they were young. People of all ages can relate to the sounds and styles in this commercial because Pepsi made sure to grasp the spirit of each generation. When the viewer is presented with the familiar culture that they once knew, they begin to think of memories during this time that were specific to them. Memories are present in all of our minds but are usually stashed away because we are too busy focusing on what is in front of us. When Pepsi paints such a vivid picture of a time in life that was so carefree and simple, the audience has no choice but to be swept back to their youth for a brief moment that is free of troubles and full of excitement. When they soften the audience with these images of “the good old days,” the brand creates a likeable quality for themselves which consumers are more likely to choose.

The scenes from the past not only bring back memories, but they demonstrate Pepsi’s long withstanding success. Pepsi strategically combines ethos and pathos in order to have a stronger effect on the audience. When Americans watch these scenes from the past, they notice that Pepsi has been the chosen brand year after year. The red, white, and blue logo is clearly the one that people prefer; therefore, the audience is led to believe that Pepsi is offering a quality product that they can trust. Many Americans believe that following tradition is an important and endearing practice. When you follow the ways of the past, you are keeping the accepted culture alive. When consumers notice a pattern within their culture, it is likely that they will trust their fellow Americans and buy the same product as well. Pepsi becomes credible because they obviously understand important values within American society, and they offer a delicious drink that has been continuously chosen.

Pepsi used Britney Spears in their commercial to serve multiple purposes that would influence their audience. Not only does she serve as a metaphor for Pepsi but she also lends status to their product. In this generation, Britney Spears is an icon for success, popularity, and youth in America. She is the perfect person to represent Pepsi because her persona represents important qualities that young people value. Pepsi is aiming to gain the same excitement over their brand that young people feel every time they hear a song by Britney or see her picture in a magazine. Throughout the commercial, Britney Spears’ appearance changed according to the current generational styles and preferences, but she stayed the same young, popular, and fun icon that everyone focused their attention on. By dressing her up and placing her in certain settings of past generations, Pepsi makes her an icon in those times as well. This stylistic technique sends the message that Pepsi cola has remained the same popular product that young people are drawn to even though the generational preferences have changed; Pepsi has consistently been the drink that young people are crazy about. Another benefit of using Britney Spears is the fact that she is a celebrity. It is assumed by the majority of the public that people as successful and wealthy as her can afford the best of the best products. The fact that Britney Spears chooses Pepsi tells the audience that it must be the best of the best.

Each scene of the commercial shows Pepsi enhancing the enjoyment of the characters in some way or another. The 1966 scene in particular uses quite a few instances that make Pepsi seem undeniably appealing. The screen flashes a sign that says, “Surfing Contest Today,” then shows Britney and a handsome young man smiling and surfing while they drink a Pepsi. Then they show her, obviously victorious, being held up by a huge crowd while she thrusts both of her arms in the air with a trophy in one hand and a bottle of Pepsi in the other. The image of the trophy in one hand and a Pepsi in the other is symbolic of a message Pepsi is trying to send. They want their audience to feel as though if you drink Pepsi, you will be a winner. In this scene, a choir sings, “Pepsi’s got that special taste created for the gold.” By showing Britney with a trophy and associating Pepsi with winning, the commercial caters to the American culture and their acceptance of winners. If a person or group is able to thrive amongst all other competitors, then they are obviously worthy of respect due to the fact that their skills made them victorious. Winners obtain a state of dominance and leadership because they obtain mental, physical, or intellectual strength that others are unable to conquer. Pepsi shows that they support this value and that their product is “created for the gold,” or in other words created for winners. Therefore, if you choose Pepsi then you must be a winner too. By giving the audience status and making them feel invincible, Pepsi can guarantee a spot in millions of shopping carts.

The ubiquitous grins seen throughout the commercial appear to be centered on Britney Spears, who is the metaphor for Pepsi, as well as the actual product itself. Every time a character takes a sip from their frosty bottle of Pepsi, you see nothing but delight. Every time someone is offered a Pepsi, they light up and eagerly swig the soda. “You’ve got a lot to live, and Pepsi’s got a lot to give.” Pepsi is saying that when your living life to the fullest and not worrying about a thing, choose the drink that will enhance that experience. You wont take a sip of the soda and be disappointed, but you’ll take a sip and be delighted.

This commercial, which aired during one of Americas most highly watched events, engages it’s audience by using images, sounds, and ideas that would work in their favor. Pepsi wanted to relate to young people in America as well as demonstrate their dedication to the American culture. They targeted anyone that is young now or was young at some point by incorporating a current pop star in past generations. Pepsi was able to convince their audience that every generation is a “Pepsi Generation.” With the combined use of ethos, logos, pathos, and style the audience had no choice but to be seduced by Pepsi’s commercial. This advertisement proves that Pepsi is forever young in an ever-changing society.

Works Cited

Pepsi-Cola. Advertisement. YouTube. 11 Nov. 2006. Web. 05 Oct. 2010. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYywiQ3-6To&feature=related>.

“The Pepsi-Cola Story.” Pepsi.com. PepsiCo, Inc., 2005. Web. 18 Oct. 2010. <http://pepsi.com/PepsiLegacy_Book.pdf>.