If the 1980s are known for anything it’s the cola wars (and maybe the fall of Soviet Russia, Ronald Reagan, the Pope being shot and Tiananmen Square). The infamous fight between Coke and Pepsi which saw crazy amounts of advertising and Coke’s infamous new recipe blunder.
Coke had had success having George Michael (the less talented half of Wham!) do commercials for their sugar water and Pepsi was looking to counter with their own signed celebrity. In 1989 there was no one bigger than Madonna and after some tough negotiations Pepsi signed her on for a cool 5 million dollars.
As part of the deal Pepsi would get a commercial starring Madonna featuring the world premiere of her new song. Pepsi thought this to be such a big deal they actually aired a commercial to advertise the commercial.
On March 2nd 1989 the unprecedented two minute long advertisement premiered during The Cosby Show, the highest rated show of the time. The ad features Madonna watching home videos of herself as a kid, dancing in the streets and reminiscing about the good old days while the song Like A Prayer played. The ad didn’t have a whole lot to do with Pepsi, other than Madonna holding a bottle of the soda while watching the home videos and a Pepsi logo in the background in a store window.
The advertisement was a hit. It was found to be a wonderful and sweet nostalgic two minutes. The problem came about when the official video aired on MTV a couple of days later. Rather than being a nice and sweet it featured such controversial things such as burning crosses and a black man.
Religious groups hated the video and immediately called for a boycott of Pepsi. Of course, poor Pepsi had nothing to do with the video, they just made a nice little commercial. Nonetheless Pepsi caved into the pressure and never aired their advertisement again. Meanwhile, the music video continued airing on MTV and the song went on to be number one of the Billboard singles chart for three weeks. The song is also Madonna’s best selling digital download.