July 7, 2009

Take the vintage Pepsi Challenge

As a child of the eighties, I’m very familiar with the marketing campaign that was the Pepsi Challenge taste test, which was launched in 1975 and popularized throughout the next couple of decades. The idea behind it was very simple and proved to be considerably effective for the Pepsi company. Participants were given two unmarked cups, one contained Coca Cola (Coke), the other housed Pepsi, they were then asked to try both sodas and decide which one they preferred based on taste alone. PepsiCo generally reported that more folks preferred the taste of Pepsi cola to that of Coke.

While it’s been years since I’ve consumed any soda, growing up on those rare times when I did have pop, I recall preferring Pepsi to Coke (though I don’t remember ever holding a Pepsi Challenge of my own). Interestingly in talking to others of my generation about their cola preference, it seems that Pepsi often wins out, whereas people of my parent’s age bracket really seem to favour Coke. Whether this has to do with Pepsi’s aggressive advertising throughout the 80s and 90s (such as the use of celebrities like Michael Jackson and Britney Spears to endorse their products) or not certainly up for discussion.

Today I thought it would be fun to hold a Pepsi challenge of my own, though this one won’t give you a sugar rush or have you second guessing your own taste buds. While recently perusing the pages of Miss Retro Modern’s Flickr stream, I happened across two utterly stylish vintage soda advertisements, one for Coke and another for Pepsi. I was immediately struck by how deeply elegant they are, both feature exceedingly well dressed young adults, they’re targeted at a the well groomed, clean-cut 1950s middle to upper class, and both are wonderful pieces of advertising artistry.

{1955 Coca Cola ad.}


{1959 Pepsi ad.}

My challenge to you, dear readers, is to look briefly at both vintage ads and tell me which one you prefer? Don’t over-think your decision, just go with your gut (alla Blink). There’s no right or wrong choice, this is just for kicks.

Interestingly I feel like I’m drawn a little more to the Coke ad. There is something about the face of pretty young woman in her white pearls and smart outfit that ever-so-slightly reminds me of a younger version of one of my grandmas. This subtle personal tie causes the Coke ad to win this challenge for me. Which soda ad speaks to you first, who wins the Vintage Pepsi Challenge in your books? :)


  1. I am going to go with the Coke add. I love the classic look of the family, and I think they were smart to sneak in patriotic colors- so nostalgic and all American at the same time. Interestingly enough for me, as a kid I preferred coke hands down, but as an adult who drinks only diet I like diet Pepsi best. I've always thought that strange!

  2. I actually like the Pepsi ad more because I guess it seems more like a scenario I would be in (at a party with friends).

    I definitely prefer the taste of Coke, though. I'm thinking that a lot of it might have to do with where you live. I travel a lot for work and there are some cities where every restaurant, hotel, etc. serves Pepsi. And others that are Coke towns. Whenever I'm in a "Pepsi town", I can't wait to get home and enjoy a Coke at a restaurant again!

  3. I like the taste of pepsi, but the the Coke ad wins hands down!

  4. Coke. Love it. Drink it. Oh, and I am 35, so I grew up with the whole Pepsi vs. Coke. I have found it to be a regional thing- the south likes Pepsi and the west likes Coke.

    As an aside, it turns out the reason Pepsi always won the taste challenge is because Pepsi is sweeter then Coke. So after only a few sips, Pepsi tastes better. However, if you do a taste test where the tester has to drink 1/2 a can each, then Coke tends to win because it isn't so cloying and sweet. And that is why Coke is the number one canned soda! (I read the the above in a business book, but I cant remember which one. I swear I didn't make it up)

  5. What a fun post! I prefer the Coke add...she reminds me of Grace Kelly, but the header on the Pepsi add is pretty cool...So Young, So Fair, So Debonair...love it!


  6. I gotta go with the Coke ad too: I love the classic family vibe with the patriotic colors...Those people in the Pepsi ad look naughty and ornery! lol!

  7. What a lovely post! Brings back such memories!

    xxNora & Lola:)

  8. I'm going with Pepsi on this one. I'm drawn more towards the bright colors in the Pepsi ad. I also think the Coke vs. Pepsi debate is a regional preference. My parents (who were born in the '50s) are originally from California and avid Pepsi drinkers who were dismayed to discover when they moved that virtually everyone drinks Coke in Texas.

  9. I am really liking the Pepsi ad. I love the dress the woman is wearing and the style of the ad really catches my eye. I'm a coke lover,, but I like the new pepsi that is out..the one made with real sugar and not syrup.

  10. I'm always drawn to the Pepsi ads. My Flickr avatar is even taken from one!

    -Miss Retro Modern

  11. I always find myself drawn to the old Pepsi ads. My Flickr avatar is even taken from one!

    -Miss Retro Modern

  12. I love them both, but I'll go with coke. She just looks gorgeous.xx

  13. I think I prefer the Coke one - Coke always had such fantastic ads.
    Interestingly enough, most of my friends (including myself) prefer Coke! And we're about the same age. I wonder if Coke got advertised more in Australia, then.
    -Andi x

  14. Coke add, definately. I love their outfits, the pearls adorning the lady, and the spring feel to it.

  15. I like the Coke ad the best...which is cool because I prefer the taste of Coke over Pepsi. lol

  16. I actually was always a Dr. Pepper drinker. I could drink Coke or Pepsi. While I love the Coke ad, I'm going with the Pepsi one. Cheers!

  17. I prefer the coke ad. The colors are simply light and cheery! It has almost a halo -like tinge to it! Buttt.... I miss Crystal Pepsi..sniff..sniff...:)

  18. Hi everyone, thank you so very much for your awesome comments! It's really interesting to see which add you fancy and why!

    @ Marie, that is interesting indeed! Perhaps the diet Pepsi recipe is closer to the Coke recipe than that of regular Pepsi?

    @ Glamour Girl, that makes sense for sure. I'm more of a shy homebody, so perhaps subconsciously that played into my choice of the Coke ad. Definitely worth pondering! :)

    @ Matilda & Dustjacket Attic, we're cut from the same (vintage) cloth, my dears! That's how I felt too :)

    @ The Glamorous Housewife and aramblingfancy, I think that it's somewhat regional in Canada, too. I grew up in B.C. and (throughout the 90s at least) Pepsi was more popular there (or at least amongst the crowd I hung with), but out here in Ontario Coke seem to rule the soda roost :D (Thank you for the in-depth Pepsi Challenge info, that makes a lot of sense!)

    @ Karyn, very Grace Kelly-ish indeed, lovely observation, sweetie! (I agree, isn't that phrasing superb, you'd never see anything with the words "fair" and "debonair" in same line used in an ad these days.)

    @ thatgirlblogs, I love them both too, had the lady in the Coke ad not reminded me a tad of my grandma, I probably would have picked the Pepsi one too.

    @ Bee and Rose, hi fellow Coke fan...indeed, what are those wild Pepsi party-goers really up to? :D

    @ Nora, thank you, Nora dear! What fizzy drink gets Lola's two paws up? :)

    @ Tracey, I adore her dress too! When was the last time anyone looked half that sophisticated in a Pepsi (or Coke) ad these days?

    @ Miss Retro Modern, that's cool! Do you collect vintage Pepsi memorabilia?

    @ Andi, it is really interesting to think about just how much sway advertising can have on us, even if we don't realize it consciously. A perfect example of this occurred to me the other day. Hubby and I were talking about credit cards and I said that for some reason I like Mastercard more (than Visa/Amex), but didn't know why. Well, no sooner had I said that, then it dawned on me that it must be from a lifetime of watching those clever Mastercard commercials that proclaim "for everything else there's Mastercard".

    @ M, I agree, she looks like she might be dressed to go to a fancy Easter or Mother's Day luncheon.

    @ Maggi, it's official then, my dear, you're a Coke girl through and through :)

    @ Keith, I hear you there! In a race between the three, Dr. Pepper would be the winner in my books too!

    @ Marie, oh absolutely, caffeine-free cola made a lot of sense, I'm surprised that in this health-conscious age, they haven't brought Crystal Pepsi back to life.

    Thanks again, everyone! I appreciate hearing from you all so much, and hope you each have a positively wonderful Wednesday!

    ♥ Jessica

  19. I have to admit I don't enjoy drinking either very much, but I adore that Coca Cola ad! So classy.

    There are fantastic pipers in BC and I'd love to visit there or at least compete someday.

    with love,

  20. Coke, definitely. I'm a Coke fanatic anyway...can't stand Pepsi.

  21. Hi honey!!! I absolutly LOVE the first one hands down! thanks for your lovely comments sweetheart! xoxo

  22. @ Cait, you're right, there are some wonderful pipers in B.C.! I lived for several years in a town in the Okanagan (region) that holds a Scottish Highland games event each year, which I often attended, that always included an array of terrific pipers. I hope you get to see B.C. one day, it really is a magnificent part of Canada.

    @ Randi, isn't it interesting how some people love one but loath the other? I don't mind either, but when I used to drink soda (haven't for years now), I generally went for root beer or Dr. Pepper over either (Coke or Pepsi) - but my absolute fave wasn't a brown cola, it was cream soda :D

    @ Gypsy, you're very welcome, my sweet dear! Huge thanks in terms for your wonderful comments, birthday wishes and friendship!

    Thank you each very much for your lovely comments!
    ♥ Jessica