From the workplace · Memories

Pepsi, Coke and faulty memories

In two earlier pieces this month I have mentioned members of my family remembering things differently from how I remember them. My brother has no memory of watching the 1987 movie “Black Widow”, which starred Debra Winger and Theresa Russell and featured the line “I can’t believe you’re buying this”. My father put down the word “prancers” in a game of Scrabble, I challenged it successfully, and in the years afterwards he repeatedly suggested that it was the other way round, that it had been my word. Maybe he was only trying it on, maybe that’s really how he remembered things. A more fundamental memory switch has been playing on my mind in the last few days, related to a soft drinks commercial.

Usually I am rather circumspect about personal and corporate details on these pages. I allude to people and workplaces rather than give them their full names. This is deliberate. I am often trying to make general points based on specific incidents, so the names of the people and places are secondary to that. I also respect client confidentiality. There is one client that I have mentioned by name, though, based on my work in the early 1990s: Pepsi-Cola. The spelling of the client name was important, as I explained in this piece, “Introdution” (yes, it says “Introdution” and not “Introduction”, as the Blog post explains).

Pepsi were an important client for the company I worked for. We were allowed to quote complimentary comments from their staff on our corporate literature. (Not all companies allow you to do this.) Not everybody is a fan of Pepsi-Cola. Some people prefer Coca-Cola. Others prefer not to consume fizzy drinks (“soda”, to use the American term). On one training course that I delivered a delegate (who didn’t work for a soft drinks company) was scathing about Pepsi. He said it was rubbish, much worse than Coke and asked if we’d seen that Coke advert, the one set in the future, where everyone’s drinking Coke and someone finds an old Pepsi bottle. She asks someone what it is. “I’ve no idea,” he says. The point of the advert: there’s no Pepsi in the future, only Coke.

His memory of the advert was fundamentally different from the reality. It was, in fact, an advert for Pepsi. It’s called “Archaeology”, is set on “Earth some time in the future” and features a guide taking some young students to a “dwelling called the split-level ranch”. If you’d rather see it for yourself before I describe the rest of it, follow this YouTube link.

As you will just have seen, if you followed that last link, the items that they discover are a baseball, an electric guitar, and a Coca-Cola bottle, the classic Contour design. This is what prompts the young woman living in the future to ask what it is. As the delegate on that training course rightly remembered, the guide says, “I’ve no idea”. In the future, the advert suggests, there is no memory of Coca-Cola. There is only Pepsi, and everyone is drinking out of cans (not plastic bottles). But if you saw the advert many years ago, and remembered things the other way round, well, you’re not the only one.



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