PepsiCo. said Tuesday that it stands behind its controversial Madonna advertising campaign. Despite the religious and sexual nature of the singer's new "Like a Prayer" video, from which portions of a much-publicized Pepsi commercial have been drawn, the firm said it has no plans to kill its ads or pull them from broadcasters airing the video.
Tod MacKenzie, a Pepsi spokesman, disputed news reports that the company had pulled the ads from broadcast, saying that the response to the campaign "has been overwhelmingly positive."
MacKenzie's statement followed two days of confusing and often conflicting reports regarding the Madonna video and commercial.
The Reuters news agency had reported Monday that Pepsi was withdrawing the ad, and quoted Pepsi spokeswoman Becky Madeira as saying that the Madonna video "could be misinterpreted by a lot of people to be offensive" and that the company would "not advertise on any program that carries the . . . video."
Those reports, which were widely reported by broadcasters and other newspapers, were incorrect, MacKenzie said, but he refused to comment further on the stories.
He said that Pepsi officials met to discuss the Madonna situation on Tuesday and reaffirmed their support of her and the advertising campaign.
MacKenzie said Madonna's flashy two-minute commercial, which debuted in the United States last Thursday during NBC's perennially top-rated "The Cosby Show," would be aired again, but that no dates had been officially scheduled.
The commercial was shown in 40 countries during the opening day of the advertising campaign, Pepsi said.
The Pepsi spokesman also said the nature of the video in no way threatens the one-year endorsement deal between the soda company and Madonna--reportedly secured to the tune of $5 million and including highly visible support of a world-wide concert tour that may begin in summer or fall.
"This (deal) is a separate project (from Madonna's other singing and acting ventures)," MacKenzie said, stressing that Pepsi representatives had not seen the full video before the premiere of the commercial. "We would not presume to be involved with the rest of her career."
A weekend wire service story said protests from a small Catholic organization in Italy prompted Italian state television network RAI and Madonna's Italian record company, WEA, not to air the video in Italy. But on Monday, Liz Rosenberg, a spokeswoman for Warner Bros. Records in the United States, said that was not the case and that the video had been shown to Italian broadcasters who found no reason not to air it. According to Rosenberg, the clip would begin airing in Italy within two weeks.
As of Tuesday, neither Warner Bros. nor MTV--which has exclusive U.S. broadcast rights to the video for two weeks--had received any calls protesting the video, and both said there were never any plans to cease broadcasts of the video. According to MTV spokeswoman Carol Robinson, the Pepsi ad (which uses non-controversial parts of the video) was not airing on MTV, but other Pepsi commercials were running as scheduled.
Also on Tuesday, Rev. Donald Wildmon, executive director of the Tupelo, Miss.-based American Family Association and one of the most vocal protesters against the movie "The Last Temptation of Christ," told The Times that he anticipated no organized protest against the video.
"This (video) is only one little narrow piece of a big pie," said Wildmon, who had not seen the clip, but had read descriptions of its use of religious and sexual images. "I'm not saying it's not offensive. It is offensive. But we don't plan on making a crusade of it."
In an interview printed in the current issue of Rolling Stone magazine, Madonna does not address the video itself, but discusses her feelings about religion and her Catholic upbringing.
Asked if she prays, the singer-actress said: "Constantly. I pray when I'm in trouble or when I'm happy. When I feel any sort of extreme. I pray when I feel so great that I'll think I need to check in with myself and recognize how good life is. I know that sounds silly. But when it seems there's so much bull around, it's important to just remind myself of the things I have to be grateful for.
"On the other hand, when I'm feeling really bad or sad, I pray to try to reassure myself. It's all kind of rationalization. I can't describe the way I pray. It has nothing to do with religion."
She also said that she did not think she would raise any children she may have as Catholics, but still feels the faith to be an important part of her:
"Once you're a Catholic, you're always a Catholic--in terms of your feelings of guilt and remorse and whether you've sinned or not. Sometimes I'm wracked with guilt when I needn't be, and that, to me is left over from my Catholic upbringing. Because in Catholicism you are born a sinner and you are a sinner all of your life. No matter how you try to get away from it, the sin is within you all the time."