Have you seen the new Diet Pepsi ad featuring Cindy Crawford? Actually, the ad is only half-new since it’s an homage to an earlier ad that also starred the model. But that’s the whole point—or at least it’s the overt point—of the more recent spot. If you haven’t seen the commercial yet, it’s here, along with its 1991 antecedent.
The ad: An SUV rolls up to the Halfway Café, in the heart of Fictional Rural America. The song “Just One Look” plays. Cindy Crawford gets out, wearing cut-offs and a white blouse. She looks ravishing. She slinks, in slow motion, to a nearby Pepsi machine. Two young boys, small-town archetypes, ogle her all the way. She buys a Pepsi and takes a long, sensual gulp. (The song lyrics at this moment: “I’m in love/ with you/ ooooh/ oooooh”) The boys stare. They exchange a glance. The older one says, “Is that a great new Diet Pepsi can or what?” The younger replies, “It’s beauuutiful.” (The idea being that, ha ha, it’s the can they were staring at.) All this is a fairly precise re-creation of the original, quasi-legendary ad, which appeared in 1991; the boys are different, of course, and in the original ad, she was in a red sports car—and she drank a regular Pepsi. To acknowledge the viewer’s feeling of déjà vu, Crawford addresses the camera (which she didn’t do back in 1991). “Some things never change,” she says with a winning smile. A product shot intrudes, and a voice-over declares, “Diet Pepsi: same crisp taste, fresh new look.” Then we get a quick peek inside the SUV, where we find two young children, apparently hers. “Hi guys,” Crawford says to her tots. Then to us she adds, “And some things do.” The spot closes with the words “Diet Pepsi. Think Young.”
Intended message: Diet Pepsi is carbonated and artificially flavored water from the fountain of youth. If you drink enough, you will look like Cindy Crawford. Forever.
Message most viewers are likely to receive: Cindy Crawford is better than you. She is better than everyone. She is a superior being. She could drink motor oil, and still she would not age. Not only does she remain precisely as sexy as she was a decade ago, but she does so despite having had two children. Two children, by the way, who resemble the finest statuary of antiquity. She is beautiful, and her children are beautiful. Cindy Crawford has it all. She looked better than you in 1991, she looks better than you now, and she will always look better than you. You are a bug. The years may exact a terrible toll on your body, but Cindy Crawford laughs in the face of time itself. Go ahead and stare, go ahead and dream, go ahead and buy a Diet Pepsi if you really think it will help. It will not help. Bow down, puny mortal, and tremble with envy and admiration before the awesome spectacle of Cindy Crawford.
And, uh, Think Young.