Model Behavior: The Pepsi Gals

pepsi ad summer

 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?

pepsi western

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.

pepsi hot dogs

About as fierce as a flower

I can’t identify with today’s “fierce” women. You know the type.

angelinaThey 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.

pepsi angie

Lighten up

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.

pepsi beach 2

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.

pepsi red dress

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.)

pepsi sociables

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.

pepsi copsBob 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.

pepsi 42

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.

pepsi $

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.”

pepsi black peplum

Pop art

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.

pepsi beach hat

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 sunscapes

Pepsi’s sales started taking off and the brand was established. This campaign was so successful, it lasted a decade (can you imagine??).

pepsi party

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.

pepsi joan

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.

pepsi joan's boy

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.

pepsi fashion show

On the go

pepsi footloose bowler

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.

pepsi beach walk

There’s never a dull moment for these go-getters.

pepsi beach party

And they particularly like the beach!

pepsi beach stripes

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.

pepsi spotted dressWhen they set their party tables, they include finger foods, fresh veggies, small bites–and, of course, Pepsi! (Cheese ball, anyone?)

pepsi party ciggie

pepsi haughty party girlMany of these ads are set in party situations (they ARE the “Sociables”, after all)…

pepsi white dress

And their parties are packed with delicate foods on toothpicks (that’ll slow you down, for sure!).

pepsi stairway

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!

pepsi mod thnxgivingHolidays sparkle for the slim Pepsi gal–she keeps her figure by keeping her head! Salad, not stuffing, on her sideboard.

pepsi thanksgivingBut our wise Pepsi gal knows it’s all about portion control–and sipping a refreshing Pepsi pre-meal will help keep one’s appetite in check.

pepsi autumn party

Figuring it out on the job

pepsi interior decorator

The Pepsi gal is nothing if not consistent. Even at a daytime business luncheon affair, she stays true to her careful eating–and dressing–habits.
pepsi brown dress

Her career wear is sleek, stylish, slim and shows off all her hard work.

pepsi blueprintsNot too surprisingly, her career choices tend towards the artistic. Can you blame her?

pepsi bw suitOn-target for off-hours 

pepsi golf

But they also know how to relax!

pepsi ski bowler

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!)

pepsi flower

Get an eyeful of this off-beat color combination. Lilac twin set, cadet blue pencil skirt, and red bandana? Bold move, Pepsi gal!

pepsi golf clubhousepepsi floral

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.

pepsi music makers

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.

pepsi skatingRevitalizing exercise, sensible eating, interests beyond your work, and a fun outlook–that’s the secret to staying slim, according to these wonderful ads (and they’re right!!)

pepsi records

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.

pepsi stablesNo matter the weather, our Pepsi gals have a flair for fashion!

pepsi ski lodge

pepsi mask

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!

pepsi map

pepsi ski

pepsi bowling

pepsi flowers

pepsi chair painting

pepsi antique autos

Here come the brides

pepsi bride veilThe Pepsi brides are worth a singular study.

pepsi bride

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.

pepsi bride groom

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.

pepsi bridesmaids

Thanks, in part, to Pepsi!

pepsi bride 3

pepsi bride naval

Singling her out

pepsi artI’m particularly drawn to the images of the solitary woman, enjoying life on her own. (Don’t you love this daring combination of pink, orange and maize?)

pepsi red head

By land or by sea…she’s stunning.

pepsi blue dresspepsi flower showNo 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!)

pepsi shorts

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.

pepsi stairway 2

Our Pepsi gal is never moodily in a corner, sobbing into her tissue-filled hands. She’s got plenty of do.

pepsi ad xmasAt holiday time, she’s busily wrapping gifts…

pepsi xmas gal

Or preparing for parties…

pepsi red dress phone

Because she’s in good health, she’s got plenty of social commitments and because she’s slim, she loves dressing for her outings…

pepsi lingerie

She can be found playing with a pet…

pepsi xmas wrapping…or even dreaming by a window in a far-away land.

pepsi window dressing

And Pepsi helps make it all possible! (If anyone EVER finds this one in color, please, please let me know!)

pepsi travel

That holiday feeling

pepsi xmas tree trimSpeaking of holidays, when better to enjoy a refreshing Pepsi than during the busy Christmas season?

pepsi xmas wreathThe Pepsi Sociables knew how to party and wore the bright, cheerful colors of the season. They were merry, doggone it!

pepsi xmas tree hatBetter living through chemistry

pepsi staircase

Pepsi, and every other soft drink under the sun, is under attack these days.

pepsi drive in

Chemicals (all of which apparently cause cancer) abound in these artificially-everythinged concoctions.

pepsi coat

Save your stamps; I’ve read many hair-raising reports of the dangers that lurk beneath the fizz.

pepsi green dressBut, 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.

pepsi harlequin dress

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.

pepsi kim novak

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.