Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Coke vs. Pepsi: An Age-Old Battle

Kevin Erb
Ms. Waggoner
English 20803

Coke vs. Pepsi: An Age-Old Battle


Home Alone was one of the most successful comedies of its era and is still widely known since being released in 1990. The original Home Alone was #1 in the box office for 12 straight weeks and made a total profit of $476,684,675. This success earned the film a sequel and later, a third film. Nobody, even producers, can really expect a film to be an instant success and long-term classic, so it is interesting to look at the product placement in the first movie and to compare it to the second film. The most notable instance is the sodas various characters in the movie drink. In the first film, Kevin’s cousin, Fuller is known to wet his bed due to drinking too much Pepsi. Martin Smith of The Orange County Register compares these ads in films to commercials when he asks his readers to “consider the controversial film-industry practice called ‘product placement,’ in which a movie-goer who has paid $ 6 or more for a ticket often is given similar, if more subtle, pitches.” While he is mostly correct in the comparison, I would argue that sometimes the advertisements in films are not very subtle at all. In Home Alone, not only does the film show Fuller drinking a can of Pepsi, but his mother directly mentions the brand when she tells him to stop drinking it. Pepsi gets major publicity here, as it is clearly shown and mentioned in one of the most popular films of all time. It leads me to believe that Pepsi got the upper hand in this deal as their brand was eventually seen by millions, while the film didn’t really seem to benefit too much. The joke would have been the same whether the soda was Mountain Dew, Coke or Dr. Pepper. However, with a sequel to be released just two years later in 1992, the producers saw the value of this product placement and cashed in. With the new, undoubtedly higher price tag, the highest bidder wasn’t Pepsi but was instead its top rival, Coca Cola. The same character, Fuller, known to drink too much Pepsi in the first film, can be seen carrying around the trademark red Coca Cola can in multiple scenes in the sequel. Being able to cash in on advertisements is another perk of a series creating a positive brand name and obtaining a large audience. In this scenario, Coca Cola saw the space in the movie valuable enough to outbid their opponents. This reveals that these spots in films are highly coveted amongst brands. One must also remember that this was over two decades ago. If competition was this fierce back then, it must be much more so now. It is also important to note that soda is not the only product advertised in home alone. Other prominent companies such as Budget car rentals and Playboy magazine are prominently displayed or mentioned in the film. These advertisements are successful for both the film and the product, as the product is seen by millions and the film can look more “realistic” through its characters drinking Pepsi or Coke, reading Playboy and renting Budget cars, all while the producers can add to the profit they have already made through ticket sales. The competition between Pepsi and Coke gives an insight into the market competition, especially in series with multiple films.

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