CNN Highlights Pepsi and Ikea's Obama-Inspired Ad Campaigns

CNN correspondent Alina Cho devoted an entire report on Monday’s American Morning program to how the Obama presidential run has apparently served as an inspiration for ad campaigns by big corporations. Cho zeroed in on how the Pepsi logo and the Obama campaign logo were “strikingly similar,” both using “swirls of red, white, and blue,” despite the fact that Pepsi has used the color scheme since World War II.

Cho introduced her report by heralding how “[c]hange is coming to Madison Avenue” and explained how Obama might be a model for advertising agencies: “Think about it -- Obama is a winning product and he won on the promise of hope. So now companies like Pepsi want to use the same message in their campaigns, but will it work?”

The correspondent played a clip from an ad for the soft drink giant’s new “Optimism Project,” and asked, “Commercial or campaign message? It’s all about optimism, with a logo that’s all too familiar. But this has nothing to do with Barack Obama -- it’s an ad for Pepsi.” She also played clips from two advertising experts who highlighted the apparent sensibility of using hope as a tool to sell products.

At the end of the report, Cho predicted that this kind of pitch would have a short life span: “...[I]f you’re dreading the thought of four more years of ads about hope and change blanketing the air waves, don’t worry. It’s not going to last. Branding experts say we as consumers have a very short attention span -- something else will come along, and, well, advertisers will start parroting that.” Co-host John Roberts responded skeptically to Cho’s observation about the Obama and Pepsi logos: “That Pepsi commercial -- were they really trying to copy the [Obama] logo?” The correspondent then admitted the obvious: “...[S]ure, they are both red, white and blue, but Pepsi’s logo has always been red, white and blue.”

The full transcript of Cho’s report, which began 13 minutes into the 8 am Eastern hour of Monday’s American Morning:

JOHN ROBERTS: Everybody looking for a piece of the action right now -- more and more companies are thinking, yes, we can make a buck off of President-elect Barack Obama.

(CNN CAPTION: “Obama Bandwagon: Companies model ads after Obama’s campaign”)

KIRAN CHETRY: Yeah, from campaign logos to slogans, it appears nothing is off limits. CNN’s Alina Cho is following this story for us this morning -- change that the advertisers can believe in, right?

ALINA CHO: That’s right. Change is coming, guys. Good morning, everybody. Change is coming to Madison Avenue. Good morning, everybody. You know, we should be clear that we’re not talking about those t-shirts, mugs, and pens -- products that showcase the likeness of Barack Obama. We’re talking about subliminal advertising, or maybe it’s not so subliminal. Think about it -- Obama is a winning product and he won on the promise of hope. So now companies like Pepsi want to use the same message in their campaigns, but will it work?

CHO (voice-over): Commercial or campaign message? It’s all about optimism, with a logo that’s all too familiar. But this has nothing to do with Barack Obama -- it’s an ad for Pepsi.

LINDA KAPLAN THALER, CEO, THE KAPLAN THALER GROUP: I think it’s different because there’s such enormous hope and optimism in this country now for Obama, and I think people can’t help but trying to sell their product in the same voice.

CHO: It’s called the ‘Pepsi Optimism Project,’ or POP. And just like Obama’s campaign, change is the message from Ikea. Starting Monday, it’s showcasing a replica of the Oval Office, using Ikea furniture. Both Pepsi and Ikea tell CNN there’s nothing political about their ads, but the Pepsi and Obama logos are strikingly similar. Both use swirls of red, white, and blue. So can you sell a product in the same way you sell a presidential candidate?

BARBARA LIPPERT, AD CRITIC, “ADWEEK”: You wouldn’t buy anything unless you had some hope, and they’re not going to show a guy saying, ‘my car is underwater, and my house, you know, mortgage is falling apart, but I want to have a Pepsi.’ Unfortunately, a soda can really can’t change your life or give you hope.

CHO: One area where Madison Avenue has learned from Pennsylvania Avenue is how to target an audience.

THALER: Obama’s campaign did something absolutely brilliant and almost impossible. He captured the youth market. He went to the people who don’t vote.

CHO (on-camera): And you say that goes against everything that advertising is about.

THALER:It goes against advertising 101.

CHO (voice-over): Like trying to sell a cookie to a person who’s never tried one, it’s just not done. But maybe change is coming.

CHO (on-camera): If we’re talking about a country that is half Democrat and half Republican --

THALER: Oh, you know what? We’re all behind the president, and on the day of the inauguration, everybody in this country is going to be rooting for this man.

CHO (on-camera): You know, if you’re dreading the thought of four more years of ads about hope and change blanketing the air waves, don’t worry. It’s not going to last. Branding experts say we as consumers have a very short attention span -- something else will come along, and, well, advertisers will start parroting that. Also, remember, it’s not such a stretch to advertise on the message of hope. I think you think about it, if you are buying a product guys, you are hopeful it will change your life in one way, shape, or form, and that Pepsi commercial -- that jingles -- makes you feel good, you know? It’s catchy.

CHETRY: See that!

ROBERTS: That Pepsi commercial -- were they really trying to copy the logo?

CHO: Well, you know, it depends on who you ask really. I mean, to be truthful, those ad campaigns don’t happen overnight, and some people say -- yeah sure, they are both red, white and blue, but Pepsi’s logo has always been red, white and blue. Other people point out, well, the Pepsi logo looks a little like the Korean Air logo, too --

ROBERTS: Yeah, that’s true -- different color blue though.

CHO: Which it is true. So, you know, it depends on who you like. The branding experts say, listen -- and the main thing is that advertisers need to have fun with it. They can’t take themselves too seriously because they’re clearly not selling the same message, like Ikea with the pop-up Oval Office. It’s kind of fun -- $100 desk, just like the one in the Oval Office.

CHETRY: Exactly. Alina, thanks.

CHO: You bet.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center