Michelob has Genesis. Nike has the Beatles. Coke has Max Headroom.
But don't expect to see Pepsi-Cola using Alice Cooper to tout its pops this year. The rock veteran recently used the Pepsi slogan--"The Choice of a New Generation"--in a full-page ad in Billboard boasting about ticket sales on his current tour.
Pepsi's response? A heated two-page letter from its corporate counsel threatening legal action if Cooper didn't "immediately cease and desist" from using the Pepsi slogan.
Pop Eye has obtained a copy of the warning notice, which shows just how proprietary (not to mention how humorless) some firms can be in dealing with rock performers who spoof their logos or products--at least unless those performers have an official sponsorship contract with the company.
Referring to the May 2 issue of Billboard, Pepsi counsel Peter J. Silverman wrote that the ad "rather grotesquely depicts the severed head of what appears to be 'Alice Cooper.' We have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to build a wholesome image for THE CHOICE OF A NEW GENERATION and for PEPSI-COLA products, and cannot and will not tolerate the association of our Company and its products in such context."
Cooper's management firm, Alive Enterprises, recently replied to the Pepsi challenge, saying it will refrain from using the slogan again. However, Cooper's manager, Shep Gordon, explained that the whole affair was intended as a "good-natured" spoof.
"This all came about when we were looking through some mid-'70s Alice ads. We found one we did with Alice in eye makeup and holding his hair up in the air, where he said, 'Hi, I'm Alice. Fly me.' It was based on an National Airlines ad of the time which used a series of stewardesses, saying 'Hi, I'm Susan. Fly me.'
"I was talking to Alice and since he's a big Diet-Pepsi drinker, he suggested using the 'New Generation' slogan. It was meant as a good-natured spoof--we didn't think anyone would care. We saw it as a compliment.
"The irony is that Alice has been a great free spokesman for their product. Whenever anyone takes a backstage photo of Alice, he's always holding a Diet-Pepsi."
Gordon said he received the Pepsi legal threat while at the Cannes Film Festival where, he claimed: "It brightened up my whole day. My guess is that $100,000 in law school training must've gone into that letter. It was definitely written by someone in possession of a word processor."
Gordon added that Cooper has "sworn" that he will continue drinking Diet-Pepsi, though it is unlikely that he'll find a corporate sponsor for his next series of concert performances. "Frankly, we've had offers from people asking that he not use their products."
A Pepsico corporate spokesman referred Pop Eye to a Pepsi-Cola publicist, who did not return several phone calls.