a Coke and a Smile
CEO of the Coca-Cola Corporation should be very happy this
week. The company should be sending cards, flowers, and a
huge thank you to Bill O'Reilly, The O'Reilly Factor, The
Radio Factor and Fox News.
On Tuesday's edition of the Radio Factor, O'Reilly took Pepsi-Cola
to task for its hiring of the rap star Ludacris to become
the company's newest pitch man. His spots were to air during
the MTV video music awards on the Music Television network.
Pepsi-Cola had no problem with hiring a foul mouthed rap star
to sell its soda; a company representative explained that
even though they knew what type of music Ludacris recorded,
they saw no conflict of interest in marketing the soft drink
giant to children and teens.
blasted Pepsi for its lack of common sense, and promptly started
a firestorm of responses by viewers and listeners of his shows.
"I'm calling for all responsible Americans to fight back and
punish Pepsi for using a man who degrades women, who encourages
substance abuse, and does all the things that hurt particularly
the poor in our society," O'Reilly said. Thousands of emails
and phone calls poured into Pepsi in protest of their choice
clarify, the rapper Ludacris is a typical example of the urban
music scene. Rap music is said to reflect inner-city black
culture. Justification of the lyrics and message this form
of expression is afforded is often attributed to the struggles
of the young, black men residing in these urban environments.
But how can anyone, including the record companies and especially
Pepsi, justify the violence, sexually-explicit lyrics, and
blatant carnal message? How can the artists themselves justify
it? And how can Pepsi, or any other American corporation,
decide to market its product by using a celebrity of questionable
character to advertise to children?
matter isn't a question of free speech, taste in music preferences,
or even one of character. It's a matter of responsibility.
Marketing soda pop to kids using a thug rap singer is irresponsible
and immoral. Whatever happened to common sense? Pepsi's decision
to acquire Ludacris as a spokesman was based on the much heralded
"Q rating." The Q rating is a poll indicating public opinion
used by advertisers to gauge celebrity star power. What this
rating system leaves to question is the acceptability of said
star in an advertising campaign. Everyone knows who Charles
Manson is, but do we want him selling soda to our kids?
the Factor, both radio and television versions, Bill O'Reilly
expressed what thousands of other Americans felt - holding
companies like Pepsi responsible for their message. By using
pop culture icons such as actors or musicians to sell a product
associates the celebrity not only with the product but with
the corporate image. This month's big name could be next month's
scandal. Pepsi should know this well. In 1989, the company
signed pop star Madonna to an advertising deal worth millions.
Shortly after, the music video for her song entitled "Like
a Prayer" was released. It portrayed a young woman (Madonna)
with stigmata wounds on her hands and burning crosses. The
immediate backlash prompted Pepsi to fire the singer as a
O'Reilly, threatening a boycott of Pepsi along with thousands
of angry responses from potential customers, reported the
corporation decided on Wednesday to drop its superstar spokesman.
Pepsi issued a statement which reads in part: "We've heard
from a number of people that were uncomfortable with our association
with this artist. We've decided to discontinue our ad campaign
and we're sorry that we've offended anyone."
You could say that. In the age of rampant corporate corruption,
from Enron to Adelphia, Pepsi would do well to remember that
Americans are watching the corporate world more closely than
ever. To promote a product using a controversial spokesperson
is flirting with disaster. It makes us uncomfortable to be
forced to counteract a message by a soft drink company who
hires a thug to advertise its product to our children. Pepsi
better hope that Britney Spears doesn't fall soon, no matter
what her Q rating might be.