If you've seen Pepsi's newest "Refresh Everything" ad, you've probably felt some déjà vu. The commercial, which features Pepsi-drinkers interacting with one another across split screens, looks exactly like the music video "Hibi No Neiro" from the Japanese band SOUR, as YouTube users were quick to point out. SOUR's video went viral last year, racking up millions of hits online and eventually winning YouTube's Japan Video Awards in 2009. The concepts are the same; Advertising powerhouse TBWA (who we featured on our Most Innovative Companies last year), has just spruced up the quality and laced the video with a catchy Black Eyed Peas' beat for Pepsi. (Worth noting: the YouTube commenter venom is directed at Pepsi, not the agency that actually created the ad).
What's remarkable about this is not the blatant plagiarism, but the attempt to recycle a viral marketing campaign to launch, well, another viral marketing campaign. The ad simply capitalizes on the creative talents of an obscure Japanese band, importing the video's innovations for mainstream America. Pepsi has just brought the concept of a once popular YouTube clip to primetime.
And we've actually seen this formula before, both in still and video ads. Remember when Nike apologized after being called for co-opting an album cover of ultra-indie punk pioneers Minor Threat to promote its similarly named skateboarding tour? And Weezer did about the same thing, though far less implicitly. Remember "Pork and Beans?" The popular music video featured Weezer parodying a mishmash of YouTube classics, from Chris Crocker to Miss South Carolina. Incidentally, the opening montage—split screens and all—is a direct takeoff of SOUR's "Hibi No Neiro."
Pepsi's "Refresh Everything" campaign is already off to a good start. For one, getting the blogosphere angry over its similarities to "Hibi No Neiro" is a perfect way for the video to go viral. How's that for irony?