What’s your motivation?
All the diet books and programs in the world won’t help you stay on the straight and narrow if you don’t have a visual–a clearly defined, realistic, accessible goal. So, today’s question is: What does post-diet you look like? Who is she?
You have to know what success looks like–and it will look differently to every woman. And that’s where my new obsession with Pepsi ads comes in.
About as fierce as a flower
I can’t identify with today’s “fierce” women. You know the type.
They heave weights over their heads, box in a ring, scream invectives at incompetent annoyances, render one’s hand numb with their crushing handshakes. They probably take Angelina Jolie’s snarling Lady Lara Croft as their role model. Somehow, that’s not working for me. I’ve always favored elegance over arrogance.
But, about a year ago, I stumbled across some images of a bygone era and everything fell into place. My “Come Alive with Pepsi” Pinterest board soon burgeoned with these sleek, happy women, all of whom were passionately addicted to Pepsi.
I had my role models alright, and boy, were they lulus! Turned out there were dozens and dozens of vintage Pepsi ads, each more beautiful than the last.
I was hooked. (Let’s review the stunner below: Sash matches hair, pumps are same print as blouse (!), lime green, pine, and aqua color scheme….I’m going to faint with joy.)
Where did they come from? Well, this decade-long Pepsi advertising campaign known familiarly as “the Sociables” had its start in the 1950s, as Pepsi struggled to regain consumer traction after World War II.
Bob Stoddard, the official Pepsi archivist (and a very sweet fellow), informed me that during the Depression, Pepsi billed themselves as the more affordable choice, with then-important ”food energy” (read: calories) for less. When money was tight, as in the early war years, this was a smart strategy.
Alas, the very ideas that made it a winner during the war years backfired post-WWII, when newly flush consumers considered anything discounted as cheap or inferior.
The company president, Al Steele, took the savvy, if risky, step of reducing the amount of sugar in Pepsi, branding it as a “dry” soda pop, and stressed its refreshing qualities over economy. Pepsi became known as “the light refreshment.”
To reinforce this new image, Pepsi hired an agency that pulled on a pool of talented commercial artists from the Cooper Studio: Joe DeMers, Joe Bowler, Coby Whitmore, Bob Levering, Lynn Buckham, Len Steckler, and others. Theirs was a distinctively fresh, modern look–perfect for promoting the youthful appeal of the reformulated Pepsi.
The same artwork seen in the day’s best periodicals (Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal, McCalls, Redbook, etc) was now touting the benefits of drinking Pepsi. And it worked. (Curious about what’s going on in the image below? That’s sun silhouette. Pepsi drinkers are artistic.)
Pepsi’s sales started taking off and the brand was established. This campaign was so successful, it lasted a decade (can you imagine??).
What killed it? Ah, well, that’s the Hollywood connection. Joan Crawford married Pepsi magnate Al Steele in 1955. When Al died in 1959, Joan replaced these incredibly talented artists with her protégé (and many say, her lover) Roy Besser.
His feeble designs and unsophisticated colors laid a dreadfully suburban bourgeoisie veneer over the Sociables. The ads that had once been inspirational and classy now became cheesy and childish.
Joe Bowler, one of the premier artists of these glorious images, relates the story here, in a wonderful interview shared generously by Leif Peng. Happily, some talented artists were recruited back to the campaign (notably Bob Peak) and it was revitalized in the early 60s.
On the go
And it’s still working, as far as I’m concerned! The Sociables live the life many of us dream of, but it’s quite attainable. These lively folk are incredibly active, vital, and full of fun. Their vibrant life has an irresistible appeal.
There’s never a dull moment for these go-getters.
And they particularly like the beach!
The marvelous copy on this ads underlines the visuals–these women are kept in trim, not by starving oneself, but by eating and drinking consciously.
And their parties are packed with delicate foods on toothpicks (that’ll slow you down, for sure!).
When Mrs. Pepsi sets a holiday table, she does it the modern way…notice even Grandmother is slim and trim in this layout. No plump Norman Rockwellian hausfraus in here!
Figuring it out on the job
Her career wear is sleek, stylish, slim and shows off all her hard work.
But they also know how to relax!
Aside from offering ongoing motivation for keeping the figure in trim, these ads provide wonderful inspiration for off-hours attire. (I so love this Suzy Parker-ish gal with her chocolate brown, peach, and red ensemble! Wow!)
Get an eyeful of this off-beat color combination. Lilac twin set, cadet blue pencil skirt, and red bandana? Bold move, Pepsi gal!
The ad above tells us just how she does it: her “sane choice of lighter food and drink.” These women stay slim because they stay sane.
One of the things I love best about these ads is the meta-message…that the things you love to do are worthwhile, for their own sake.
Bowling, riding, shopping, donning a costume for a Halloween party, preparing for life’s big moments–Pepsi gals dress for the occasion and smilingly include their friends and family in on the fun.
This autumn drive scene below is one of my all-time favorites and looks like it was inspired by a Barbie & Ken ensemble called Rally Day..or was it the other way around? What I wouldn’t give for her car coat and, no doubt, cozy Pendelton plaid wool slacks!
Here come the brides
In the post-WWII era, the main goal of any girl was to marry, and Pepsi showed them how to best the competition with a slim, slender figure.
You can see the changing bridal fashions, both in the wedding backgrounds, bridal parties, and in the hair/makeup–but the constant is the glowing bride, confident that she is looking her best.
Thanks, in part, to Pepsi!
Singling her out
By land or by sea…she’s stunning.
No matter what she’s doing, she’s dressed for it. And because she’s Pepsi-slim, she looks fantastic. (I must call your attention to the fact that the gal below has managed to find sandals that echo the harlequin shapes on her shorts. Egad, how marvelous!)
Naturally, the 1950s were, without question, the most elegant and fabulous decade for women’s fashions. They were also the most demanding and required a woman of style and elegance to use restraint in her choices. The sylph below keeps her waistline with a wholesome diet of lighter, less-filling meals–and Pepsi.
Our Pepsi gal is never moodily in a corner, sobbing into her tissue-filled hands. She’s got plenty of do.
Or preparing for parties…
Because she’s in good health, she’s got plenty of social commitments and because she’s slim, she loves dressing for her outings…
She can be found playing with a pet…
And Pepsi helps make it all possible! (If anyone EVER finds this one in color, please, please let me know!)
That holiday feeling
Pepsi, and every other soft drink under the sun, is under attack these days.
Chemicals (all of which apparently cause cancer) abound in these artificially-everythinged concoctions.
Save your stamps; I’ve read many hair-raising reports of the dangers that lurk beneath the fizz.
But, I must admit, when it’s been a warm summer day and I’ve been sweating over a computer or a lawnmower, nothing, but nothing signals refreshment to me like a Diet Pepsi, poured lovingly over a trio of ice cubes in a crystal tumbler.
And when I want to refresh my commitment to a slender figure, I skim through these images, summon up my willpower, and reach for a Diet Pepsi. Over ice.
Thanks again to Mr. Bob Stoddard, Pepsi archivist and historian, for providing the context for these marvelous ads, and to Mr. Leif Peng, for his generous permission to link to his Joe Bowler interview.