PEPSICO RECENTLY severed its advertising contract with the rapper Ludacris after a conservative commentator pointed out that perhaps he was not the best spokesman for the Pepsi generation, citing such inspirational lyrics as: "I'm DUI, hardly ever get caught sober, and you about to get ran the f--- over." Pepsi, of course, declared itself shocked; wasn't Ludacris a philanthropist, founder of the Ludacris Foundation that donates to Boys and Girls Clubs? But the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network wasn't buying it and this week called for a boycott of all Pepsi products.
For years advertisers have tried to tap into the energy of popular bands while ignoring their subversive side, but lately this has tipped over into the absurd. Of all soundtracks to sell its new luxury model, Jaguar chooses the Clash, the punk poets of British blue-collar class resentment and anti-capitalist rage. Lou Reed's ode to heroin, "Perfect Day," sweetly glossing the NFL? Creedence Clearwater Revival's angry ironic "Fortunate Son" selling Wranglers?
The campaigns are a disrespect to the bands and the intelligence of the target audience. But what do the companies care? No doubt they get the focus groups humming along. PepsiCo, for one, has already moved on to Ozzy Osbourne.