Pepsi is no stranger to celebrity endorsements. For decades, stars like Cindy Crawford, Elton John, Beyonce, Ray Charles, Britney Spears and David Beckham have sipped and sold the iconic brand—and got paid to do it.
This year, despite forgoing its decadeslong title as the Super Bowl Halftime Show sponsor, Pepsi is doubling down on its presence in the game with two ads that invite viewers to consider whether what they’re being sold is actually good—or if the person selling it is just a really good actor.
The campaign, titled Great Acting or Great Taste?, stars actors Steve Martin and Ben Stiller, with a cameo from Rachel Dratch. Both spots, created by VaynerMedia in collaboration with Martin and Stiller, and directed by Jorma Taccone, focus on how Pepsi Zero Sugar really tastes.
The first 60-second commercial features Ben Stiller acting through various dramatic scenes and at one point becoming his character Derek Zoolander. When Stiller re-emerges as himself to drink Pepsi Zero Sugar, he declares it “like really good.” But is he only acting?
Pepsi’s second commercial, also 60 seconds long, features Steve Martin acting out everyday moments that focus on relatable feelings — frustration, disappointment, joy. When he drinks his Pepsi Zero Sugar, it feels like he’s enjoying it. Though conveying so is his job as an actor.
Pepsi’s Super Bowl campaign aims to play into consumer distrust of advertising in a setting where the stakes have never been higher for brands.
“There’s this skepticism that consumers have of advertisers that’s really underpinned by this cultural truth that advertising relies on actors,” Todd Kaplan, chief marketing officer of Pepsi told Campaign US. “The art of acting is someone is getting paid to make you believe something else. This truth is really alive and well in its biggest form in the Super Bowl when every actor comes out of the woodwork.”
Rather than taking Martin’s and Stiller’s word for it, people can try Pepsi Zero Sugar themselves. Pepsi is reimbursing up to 10 million purchases for anyone who texts “FREE ZERO” with their receipt to 81234 from Feb. 8 to Feb. 14. The promo is also available in partnership with DoorDash and Uber Eats.
In addition to the two commercials, which will both air in the first half of the game, Pepsi bought the No. 1 promoted tweet for the 24 hours of Super Bowl Sunday with the hashtag #RealorActing to drive debate about the other game day ads.
Pepsi’s two Super Bowl commercials will kick off a yearlong campaign focused on the Pepsi Zero Sugar product.