PR PLAY OF THE WEEK: Pepsi, iTunes, and the RIAA get in sync

HOUSTON: Amid the criticism of penalty flags, pop-star titillation, and field-goal drama of Super Bowl XXXVIII, many also took advertisers to task for gross-out shenanigans that lacked style and substance (not to mention the numerous spots for erectile-dysfunction remedies).

HOUSTON: Amid the criticism of penalty flags, pop-star titillation, and field-goal drama of Super Bowl XXXVIII, many also took advertisers to task for gross-out shenanigans that lacked style and substance (not to mention the numerous spots for erectile-dysfunction remedies).

However, one advertiser displayed not only substance and original thought, but it also announced and executed a strategic partnership between Pepsi-Cola and Apple's iTunes Music Store. It was a brilliant exercise of brand positioning designed not only to appeal to consumers, but to create demand for and sell product.

In their spot, titled "I fought the law," people who had been sued by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for illegally downloading music from file-sharing networks such as Kazaa, say that they'll continue to download songs for free - legally on iTunes. The stars of the spot include 14 teens, including Annie Leith, 14, who settled with the RIAA for $3,000.

Announcing that Pepsi will pay for 100 million free downloads, the ad identifies with consumers, and takes advantage of public sympathy for young downloaders who didn't know that what they were doing was wrong. In turn, the RIAA approved of the ad and promotion, saying that it encouraged young people to move to legal downloading sites such as iTunes. Because the free-download offers are found under the caps of one in three Pepsi bottles, it is anticipated that sales will increase, especially given the volume of viewers watching commercials during the Super Bowl.

Let's take stock: the RIAA is happy, as is iTunes, and if people buy more Pepsi, so is Pepsi. In turn, all public images receive a boost, and create a high-profile, mutually beneficial alliance.

Though not a pure PR Play in its use of advertising, the business move made by Pepsi and iTunes represents big marketing clout, as well as wise positioning and strategy.

However, for making the brands cool by using real people instead of unattainable pop stars, the companies are far more deserving of PR Play of the Week than nasty Ms. Jackson.

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