Pepsi ads wink at music downloading
By Theresa Howard, USA TODAY
NEW YORK — A new sort of Pepsi Generation will get air time on the Super Bowl: music downloaders.
Some 20 teens sued by the Recording Industry Association of America, which accuses them of unauthorized downloads, will appear in a Pepsi-Cola (PEP) ad that kicks off a two-month offer of up to 100 million free — and legal — downloads from Apple’s iTunes, the leading online music seller. The sassy ad, to be seen by Super Bowl’s 88 million viewers on Feb 1, is a wink at the download hot button. Pepsi hopes the promotion will connect its flagship cola, as well as Sierra Mist and Diet Pepsi, with teens who’ve shown more affinity for bottled water, energy drinks and the Internet.
The ad identifies the teens as a “few of the kids sued for downloading music free off the Internet.” RIAA has filed 914 lawsuits since it began cracking down in September, including 532 this week.
Annie Leith, a 14-year-old from Staten Island, appears with other downloaders in the ad, which features music by Green Day. The band cut a special version of the 1966 Bobby Fuller Four hit I Fought the Law for the ad, by BBDO, New York. In the ad, Leith holds a Pepsi and proclaims: “We are still going to download music for free off the Internet.” Then the announcer says how: “Announcing the Pepsi iTunes Giveaway.”
“It’s all in good spirit,” says Dave Burwick, chief marketer, Pepsi, North America. “This has been a huge cultural phenomenon. It’s highly relevant and topical for consumers. We’re turning people to buying music online vs. stealing it online.”
Leith, whose favorite artist is Jay-Z, says she no longer makes unauthorized downloads and is excited to appear on the Super Bowl. “I can say I was on TV for something so ridiculous,” says Leith, who along with her older sister and younger brother downloaded 950 songs over three years. They settled the lawsuit for $3,000, the average according to RIAA. She’ll use some of her undisclosed ad fee to help pay for the settlement.
RIAA is all in favor of the ad and the promotion.
“This ad shows how everything has changed,” says Mitch Bainwol, RIAA chairman. “Legal downloading is great because fans are supporting the future of creative work in America.”