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1985 Pepsi Transformers Toys and Commercial
In 1985, the Cola Wars were at their peak. Pepsi had been steadily gaining on Coke for years through some of the most clever marketing campaigns devised up till this point. Coke would attempt to reclaim the Cola Crown by altering its formula and releasing New Coke. While Coca-Cola was spinning its wheels on that ultimate failure, Pepsi continued to release interest commercials and ads.
While celebrities featured heavily in Pepsi’s advertising, it was not exclusively celebrity-focused. In 1984, The Transformers television series was a runaway success and the toyline was sweeping the United States.
To capitalize on this, Pepsi not only managed to get a Pepsi variant of Optimus Prime rolling but also released their own line of Pepsi-branded transforming toys.
Made by Imperial Toys, stylistically, the six toys they released were more akin to GoBots. But that didn’t stop Pepsi and supermarkets from connecting them to the more popular Transformers toyline.
The jeep looks so similar to the GoBot’s Geeper–Creeper that I wonder if they were direct copies of actual GoBots? Whatever the case, these Transforming toys were head and shoulder above what you could get at as a product tie-in at Wendy’s in 1986 in terms of quality.
I have been looking online for all six of the Pepsi Transformers, but have only been able to find three so far, an airplane, a jeep, and a race car. The airplane, or Convert-A-Plane, is by far the most common, with many of them for sale on eBay. I wonder if the plane was the first one released and somehow people lost interest as the others were made available?
The “official” relationship did not appear to go much deeper than this, but Pepsi did release a commercial that would make you think that it did. It is a 30-second ad from 1985 that goes full Transformers.
It’s a very typical ad for its time. A Coke and Pepsi machine sit side by side at a very quiet location. In this instance, a place called the Sands Motel. From experience, you know what is going to happen. A car will pull up and the people inside of that car will choose the Pepsi. That is exactly what happens. What is interesting is what happens right before the car pulls up.
The two soda machines transform into robots. Robots that are ready to brawl. They never say these are Transformers, but the heads on the transforming soda machines are dead ringers for what you would find on your Transformer’s toy.
The two Cola Robots are about to start trading blows when a car pulls up and they quickly transform back into vending machines. At that point, the young people purchase a Pepsi and pull away. This seems to settle the argument and the last thing we see is the Pepsi Robots head popping up and laughing.
Watch the Pepsi Transformers Commercial
Some other things about this commercial:
The narrator is Martin Sheen. His voice is unmistakable.
The Sands sign resembles the famous Sands Hotel in Las Vegas.
What is it with this location? Desert motels and gas stations were very popular backdrops for ads in the eighties. The Sands Hotel appears almost post-apocalyptic in some shots.
That post-apocalyptic vibe is disrupted when these denim-clad young people roll into the commercial in their vintage 1950s car. They are modern, the care is old, the setting is weirdly both old and futuristic.
The guy who chooses the Pepsi puts his money into the machine rather aggressively.
Upon multiple rewatches, I am annoyed that they showed up and disrupted what could have been a fun robot battle.
It is a shame that Pepsi didn’t go for a transforming Pepsi Vending Machine toy at the time. I would have loved that. I believe the closest we would get to that would be much later with the release of Dispensor.