Analyzing Pepsi’s Halloween Ad: What Makes It So Effective?

Pepsi Halloween ad analysis

If you watch ad commercials often, you will know that soft drink marketers have engaged in cola wars for the longest time. By ‘cola wars,’ we mean the mutually-targeted comparative advertising techniques used by rival brands selling similar beverages. The ongoing advertising battle between Pepsi and Coca-Cola has given us some remarkably creative ad pieces that never seem to get too old. One such ad is Pepsi’s famous Halloween ad. The ad definitely helped highlight PepsiCo and directed a tremendous amount of sales after its launch. Let us dive into the Pepsi Halloween ad analysis to understand what made it so viral!

What is the Ad About?

As part of Halloween promotions, Pepsi devised a sassy ad directly referencing its most fierce rival company, Coca-Cola. The ad features a Pepsi can or tin enveloped in a red cloak or cape. It sports the misspelled version of Coca-Cola in white (using a play in lettering) that reads as “Cola Coca.” The backdrop is that of a ravine terrain. The text on the ad states, “We wish you a Scary Halloween!” The ad probably tries to convey that dressing like (or being) Coca-Cola on Halloween is a scary thought!

Pepsi Halloween Ad Analysis

The blood-red cloak clearly depicting the rival company logo resembles Dracula’s cape, giving it a suspenseful edge. You can see that the original can is a Pepsi can from the gap in the front. Since the ad was for Halloween season promotions, they have used the background of treacherous terrain, complete with sharp-edged rocks, dark ravines, and sparse vegetation.

This ad went viral on Facebook and Twitter within a few hours of posting. Pepsi smartly got the publicity it aimed for. Moreover, this ad sparked strong responses from the rival brand’s fans.

Who is the Targeted Audience?

Teens, young adults, and middle-aged people are the most likely targeted audience for beverage brands like Pepsi. In fact, during the Covid pandemic, the consumption of soft drinks among this target group had risen to 84%. When it comes to sugary and soda drinks, young adults and adolescents are the heaviest consumers.

The Pepsi and Coca-Cola Halloween advertising takes the Halloween season into account. Halloween costume parties are a rage among this age group. Pepsi brilliantly utilized this factor while designing the Halloween ad. It knew that the imagery would resonate with the target audience.

Ad Strategy Explained

We can deduce the following facts about the brand strategy from the Pepsi Halloween ad analysis:

  • Pepsi tried to use the Halloween concept to run a social media campaign targeting its arch-rival, Coca-Cola.
  • Pepsi tried to achieve two pertinent things through this ad – a hilarious jibe at Coca-Cola and increased publicity towards its brand.
  • The primary intention of the ad was to generate buzz and make it the talk of the advertising town.
  • The ad spread like wildfire, and soon, everyone started liking, commenting, and sharing it. It increased the brand awareness of Pepsi.
  • The advertisers deliberately changed the lettering to “Cola Coca.” It ensured that Pepsi stayed out of legal and copyright issues.

So, ultimately, what was the message this ad tried to portray? The ad conveys that being a Coca-Cola fan can be a scary concept and, deep down, everyone is a Pepsi supporter.

What the Ad Says About Pepsi

The creative team of Pepsi deserves applause for coming up with this extraordinary concept. They also used the seasonal festival of Halloween and designed their ad around it. It speaks volumes about how Pepsi wanted to project itself as the number-one beverage/soft drink brand. According to reports, the ad reached over 65 million people worldwide within a week of its release.

Through this ad, Pepsi proved to the world that they are not scared to take the plunge in competitive advertising. They went ahead with the ad, in spite of knowing it could heavily backfire on them. What was Coca-Cola’s response to it? Of course, there was a rebuttal, but it was not official. Although it was a fan-made ad, Coca-Cola’s unofficial retaliation to the Pepsi Halloween ad also became viral within a few days of its release. Coca-Cola fans took advantage of the original ad’s ambiguity and designed a new version. Here is a picture comparing the two ads:

On the left, you can see Pepsi’s original Halloween ad targeted at Coca-Cola. On the other side, you can see Coca-Cola’s fitting response, which also became viral. The brilliant play in words by Coca-Cola in changing the caption created a lot of ambiguity on what Pepsi actually tried to convey. Coca-Cola fans edited the caption to “Everybody wants to be a hero!” This minute change projected the ad in a completely different light. Coca-Cola supporters took the opportunity to demonstrate that the ad means that Pepsi wants to be a superhero like Coca-Cola. It created more confusion. It attempted to overthrow the meaning Pepsi originally wanted to portray through the ad.

The Bottom Line

Advertisements still are the primary marketing tools for any business. A look at the Pepsi and Coca-Cola Halloween advertising rivalry proves how seriously brands compete to gain an edge over each other through their ads. Despite being established companies having their personal fan base, they try to garner more consumers’ attention and viewership. Nevertheless, loyal brand advocates on both sides stick to buying from their favorite brand despite the negative or targeted publicity. The Pepsi Halloween ad analysis tells us that while using the competitive advertising strategy, the ad should be well thought out and unique. Only that will capture the audience’s attention and make the ad campaign successful.

Explore the blog posts of The Ad Digest to read the analysis and marketing strategies of some more famous ads. Understand what made them go viral. What are your views about the Pepsi versus Coca-Cola Halloween ad campaign? Comment below and let us know.

Thank you for Reading!

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