It’s a very Ripley’s type of a thing because, believe it or not, Pepsi Co. seems to think that only the exact thing wrong with the world can save the world, from all the things that are exactly wrong with it (it being the world).
That’s the only reasonable conclusion I can manage to come up with after a Pepsi ad went viral last week, depicting the only-famous-for-being-famous Kendall Jenner seemingly solving the whole “world peace” Rubik’s cube that humanity has been twisting around aimlessly for the past 200,000 or so odd years, simply by taking off her blonde wig and handing a Pepsi to a police officer.
Call me crazy, but to me, that’d be kind of like Randy “Macho Man” Savage trying to solve the theory of relativity by suggesting that Einstein “Snap into a Slim Jim!” Or like a reality television star trying to solve the whole “world peace” Rubik’s cube thing by tweeting about how “The Apprentice” has really gone downhill lately, for that matter. Sad.
While you have to wonder if viral YouTube ads are the best the “worst generation” has to try and stack up to the Treaty of Versailles, I can’t say I blame the Pepsi Co. for its prolific pandering.
The ad’s irony is as obvious as it is unsurprising, considering the societal issues currently seeing that the third rock become as susceptible as ever, so desperate for a solution that purchasing carbonated sugar-water for two bucks a can just might seem crazy enough to seem like one.
In other words, the Age of Instagram has us humans more or less buying, without really knowing what, why, or how, whatever and whoever the 21st century tabloids are selling.
The worst part is it works. No one is immune. I wear Levi’s 501s because of James Dean. Plain white T-shirts on account of Marlon Brando. Sunglasses at night because of that “I wear my sunglasses at night” song, and during the day because of, well, mostly the sun.
At least James Dean was cool. At least he stood for something. And while keeping up with Kendall Jenner may be cool to some folks, rather than go down the Kardashian rat hole and the concept of standing for nothing but self, I’d rather take a look at all the times using pro athletes to sell product has worked, and even taught us a few valuable life lessons along the way.
(I did my best Don Draper impression with this list, and it goes like this):
Mean Joe Greene (Coca-Cola)
I’m too young for this one, going to show that good ads, like the iconic coolness of James Dean and Don Draper, are all but timeless.
It was 1979 when the meanest player in the NFL — so mean he was known only as “Mean Joe” — limped his way to the Pittsburgh Steelers locker room after a game, with his jersey slumped around his shoulder.
A young fan ends up following him, somehow not even calling into question 1979 post-game security practices, and tells Mean Joe how he thinks he’s the best ever, going on to ask him if he needs any help.
Mean Joe lives up to his handle at first, probably pretty annoyed at the whole aforementioned 1979 security thing, then sees the kid trying hand him a Coke. He takes it, smiles, takes a good long refreshing pull from the bottle, then tosses the kid his jersey and limps off again.
While I’ve played in my fair share of grueling games, and have no idea why any athlete would reach for sugar-water before regular water, or at least a Gatorade or something, and I also have no idea whether or not Mean Joe went on to become the spokesperson of Type 2 diabetes in his later years, the smile on the kid’s face says it all.
Life lesson: Don’t judge a book by its cover, no matter how nature-defyingly large and terrifying it may be.
Derek Jeter (Gatorade)
This one’s got it all. The New York City skyline. Derek Jeter grinning wryly while he signs autographs for overjoyed Yankees’ fans. Frank Sinatra.
The best part, aside from the Sinatra soundtrack, is that the ad’s so good that Gatorade doesn’t even need to put a Gatorade in it. It’s more of a tribute to one of the city’s greatest sports legends, one that’s brought them game after game of entertainment, joy and memories; just by doing the thing that he’s good it. Someone who’s made their world a better place by being in it.
“Thank You, Captain” is in every way a piece of art, and according to author and Ernest Hemingway confidant Gertrude Stein, the matriarch of “The Greatest Generation,” that is the meaning of all art and all artists — to offer meaning.
One Big Apple-based shop owner even tells Jeter, “We’ve been waiting since ’98 at the least for you to come in here.” An old lady is in tears of disbelief. It’s practically an impromptu parade in the streets of Brooklyn. Even for an O’s fan, that was moving to see. Go Gatorade.
Life lesson: Greatness can unite, art can inspire, and Frank Sinatra rules.
Ricky Bobby (Bob Dawson’s Diet Pork Rinds)
Alright, so the product here is as fake as the professional NASCAR racer selling it, but the impact is as real as it gets.
Will Ferrell and John C. Reiley did a whole series of fictional advertisements and PSAs throughout “Talladega Nights,” ranging from “Quin-long ju’ Prune Candy” to “Bob Dawson’s Diet Pork Rinds,” and “Stealing’s never good, but if you’re gonna do it, don’t steal fireworks. It’s the law.”
While I doubt any of them will end up saving the world, or assisting in the apparent firework-theft epidemic, for that matter, the fake ads are still all as hilarious as they are ridiculous and good for a laugh when you’re having a rough day, making viral YouTube videos a sometimes useful means of conveyance.
Ricky Bobby posting personal ads on the front window of his stock car during races also sheds some light on just how far advertisers and the celebrities they’re using to sell products will go to make an almighty dollar.
For as ridiculous as the Talladega Nights commercials may seem, I can safely say that Ricky Bobby and Cal Naughton Jr. warning people about “packs of stray dogs that control most of the major cities in our area” is no less ridiculous than Kendall Jenner stopping a surefire riot with an unexplained blonde wig and a Pepsi.
Life lesson: Laughter won’t save the world, but it can make your day.
Alright, well, the buck stops there, so to speak, and that’s where the Draper list ends. After taking into account the possibility that the fate of the world could end up on the Photoshopped shoulders of a Pepsi-peddling Kardashian, I have to admit that some of those other more artful ads have restored my faith in humanity.
I guess it’s a good thing that reality stars don’t run the world. Wouldn’t that be just… Sad.