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Pepsi And Coca Cola, Aamir and Shahrukh – Classic Bollywood Ads From The Past

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When it comes to the world of advertising no one does it bigger and better than the FMCG brands. Among them being two soda makers whose products are part of a staple diet in many countries of the world. Pepsi and Coca Cola together form the oldest and biggest oligopoly known to mankind. Both these brands spend billions of dollars in advertising globally and don’t shy away from taking digs at one another. Also, when it comes to using celebrities as brand ambassadors Pepsi and Coca Cola have always been at the fore-front tying up with actors, artists, soccer stars, cricket stars etc from around the world.

Between the two, it is Coca-Cola which is the older and more well known brand globally however variations exist from region to region. One region where such a variation exists is India, where Pepsi rules the roost and has a larger market share. The story of each of these brands in India is in itself a very interesting one.

Coca-Cola first setup shop in India way back in 1956 when the country had no foreign exchange act and made huge profits operating under 100% foreign equity. By most accounts, Coca-Cola was India’s leading soft drink until 1977 when it left India after a new government ordered The Coca-Cola Company to turn over its secret formula for Coke and dilute its stake in its Indian unit as required by the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act.

From 1977 to 1988, Pepsi and Coca Cola were both absent from India. This led to a number of local brands like Limca, Campa Cola, Thumbs Up and Gold Spot to come up and create resonance with the Indian consumer. In 1988, PepsiCo gained entry to India under a joint venture where it was marketed and sold as Lehar Pepsi until 1991. Thereafter from 1993 when India’s new liberalization policy came into effect Pepsi ended the joint venture and became a stand-alone brand. It was around this time that Coca-Cola re-entered the Indian market although this time it came in as the number two player.

The concept of using young and rising Bollywood stars as brand ambassadors was started by Pepsi in the early 1990s when they signed up the likes of Aamir Khan, Shahrukh Khan, Sachin Tendulkar, Aishwarya Rai and many others to feature in their commercials. In this special feature we take a trip down memory lane and re-visit some of the best celebrity ads of all time in India which mostly came courtesy of Pepsi and Coca Cola.

Lehar Pepsi with Aamir Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Mahima Chaudary

Aamir Khan is known to be a perfectionist and the king of soft drink commercials. Before he hit the band wagon with a string of extremely well executed ads for Coca-Cola he was the brand ambassador for Pepsi. Even today, ‘Yehi hai right choice baby, aha!‘ epitomises the year 1990. It was the eve of liberalisation when India would open its doors to a world of choices. And brands like Pepsi were looking to ride the wave with the ‘right choice‘ line.

Yehi hai right choice‘ with stars and glamour was an adaptation of an international Pepsi campaign. The above commercial was originally shot with Back To The Future star Michael J. Fox (see the original ad here) and it was a roaring success which allowed Pepsi to mark its authority in India before Coca-Cola setup shop in the country.

Aamir Khan and Aishwayra Rai with Coca Cola

As time went by, the Pepsi and Coca Cola rivalry began to intensify with each brand adopting a separate positioning strategy which was highlighted through specific slogans. This one along with a series of other commercials starring Aamir Khan were part of the “Jo chaho ho jaye, Coca-Cola enjoy!” and “Thanda matlab Coca-Cola!” campaigns. These were built upon the context of the dot-com boom of the late 90s as well as some of Aamir’s own movies which became successful at the box-office.

Shahrukh Khan and Sachin Tendulkar for Pepsi

In 1996, when Coca Cola was making a big splash in the Indian market and trying to outspend Pepsi, a rare phenomenon occurred which is remembered with great fondness till this day. After Coca-Cola became the official sponsor of 1996 Cricket World Cup, Pepsi started an ambush marketing effort under the catch phrase “Nothing Official About It“. Much to Coca Cola’s dismay this campaign starring all the leading cricketers led by Sachin Tendulkar himself gained mass popularity almost nullifying all of Coca Cola’s efforts.

Towards the end of the 1990’s, Pepsi continued to build on the success of its previous campaigns launching another successful series of celebrity ads under the banner “Yeh Dil Maange More“, this time led by Shahrukh Khan.

While we could go on talking about some memorable commercials from the past from Pepsi and Coca Cola in India its fair to say, that both these brands are masters in the area of advertising and will continue to entertain us in the future. Since Sachin Tendulkar is now a part of Coca-Cola, the brand will be leaving no stone un-turned to ensure that it capitalizes on the buzz around Sachin’s 100th century.

To celebrate Tendulkar's unique record, Coca-Cola has released nine cans chronicling his best centuries

Pepsi and Coca Cola have and always will continue to spend heavily on advertising because unlike Apple and other consumer product companies, what both these companies sell is essentially sugared water. They however have managed to position their products as a brand experience and way of life which is what comes across in all of their communication.

Which soft drink brand do you prefer and which of their advertising campaigns from the past do you remember the most? Drop a comment and share the experience.