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Pepsi Media Blitz France

from dawn star, paris

" PepsiMania " or « NeuroMania » in  France. First of May News on the 
Premier May, the French national workers Holiday.

by Dawn Star, Paris, UVI.net

Paris (May 1 1996)  - Apart from the PepsiCo advertising campaigns that 
periodically  sweep across French television viewers like soaring eagles 
over canyons of young " Max " Pepsi canners, idly urging French youth, in 
vain, to get on with it in life and stop living off their  parent's 
fortunes, free state  health and education, along with state-funded  job 
training and  unemployment protection, the French love affair with the 
American Dream is now taking a new look as Pepsi blitzes French media 
at nightly news primetime with a multimillion dollar television lotery 
campaign from April 29 to July 6. The French press are once again, 
happily in tow, cowing to the mega company whose goal seems bent as much 
to dilute their passion for French wine, as their mind and conscience for 
a humanitarian response to the human tragedy in Burma. 

For everywhere I turn, from radio shows to cyber-cafés, Burma is no less 
foreign to the new youth generation here in France than their penchant 
for cola. Yet,  Pepsi is bent on changing that consumer profile. Despite 
the wave of articles from the international wires, and the American 
press,  except the new publication  UVI.net, and a  no longer publishing 
but formerly  hip and leftist-anarchist tabloid " Maintenant " , no one 
in the French press has raised a eye about the Pepsi problem in Burma, 
and how ethical corporate investment has proved itself as a model of 
selective purchasing  endorsed by  the ban on Burma business and trade  
across the United States from Harvard to Oakland, Wisconsin Seattle to 
Georgetown, and blasting into the PepsiCo corporate boardroom.

Indeed, the political climate in France is worse than ever to highten 
French awareness to the plight in Burma. Ever since the right-wing 
victory, last year, in French presidential politics which delivered 
Jacques Chirac and his RPR party to power, the same brazen capitalist 
faction that is behind French Total's incursion into Burma, and Chirac's 
visit earlier this year to Asia, accompanied by Total's CEO, Thierry 
Desmarest, is raising its ugly head. Recently, France's most popular 
comedy show,  « Les Guignols » on Canal Plus was censored after having  
tested the limits of satire and good " French taste " in a sketch of the 
wife of President Chirac, masterbating with a leather sac while watching 
her favorite host excitedly animate a home product television program. 
Evidently, the comedy writers had gone beyond the President's limit of 
tolerance - or that of its advertising sponsors, including Pepsi. And in 
the street, it is  virtually impossible to walk in Paris and not see 
French immigration police interrogating dark-skinned men, presumably of 
African or Arab origin, for prove of their identity papers and right to 
live in France. The so-called  " Pasqua Law " has been greeted by minimal 
protest as France cleans up the streets of competing cheap labor, and 
extraneous burdens to their mighty costly government social programs that 
benefit their increasing  jobless  ranks.

So, while the right-wing crackdown continues,  taking on new form and 
character weekly, to assure and pacify the French population as it 
trembles in front of its uncertain economic future, a sort of 
mindlessness towards Burma and Human Rights threatens to silence 
(passive) resistance to Pepsi's propoganda mission, in a seamless 
consumer picture of French life  where all is well at home and abroad - 
or at least, calm in the countryside. The nightly news programs reporting 
increasing incidents of national violence have taken on a dimension not 
unlike the soft approach of CBS's Dan Rather's rendering of a violent and 
chaotic world. But that same world is also here packaged by PepsiCo and 
Heineken, the latter, too,  taking a predominantly strong high-profile in 
youth magazine advertising.  

However, whereas in the United States, governed by  a decidedly strong 
activist mentality in the appeal of grassroots democracy, in Paris, 
birthground of the Rights of Man, civil disobedience and popular protest 
has diminished decidedly  since the job crisis uproar last December 
-which ironically cooled down just in time for the French to go, once 
again, on their vacation. That disruption, largely caused by the striking 
SNCF national railroad unions in opposition to the government's austerity 
economic plan, found little solidarity among the working nation, and 
nearly backfired as the vacation approached. Prime Minister Alain Juppé 
disappeared for weeks, then miraculously withstood  the storm of protest, 
and whipped the opposition into line. 

Life has been relatively quiet ever since. The arrival in Paris of 
China?s Prime Minister a few weeks ago bought out media cameras, but 
incited random protest, and in Lyon, last weekend, a  ten year 
commemoration of the Russian Tchernobyl nuclear disaster, found less than 
three hundred activists  assembled to denounce nuclear energy, despite 
incessant news and documentaries of an imminent nuclear disaster 
repeating itself, and careless nuclear waste disposal in several sites in 
France, resulting in serious leakage and harm to health and the 

No, fellow workers and wage-earners, here in France do not think too much 
about social demonstations. The Chirac government has tamed the popular 
beast and he is indolently reposing in the French countryside, out of 
harm's danger, and watching PepsiCo's " NuméroMania " media campaign, 
launched on the most popular  French television channel, TF1. Its a 
clever advertising -sponsor scheme designed to lure French people into a 
Lotery impulse similar to the highly successful " Loterie nationale ", 
and tested  by PepsiCo in other European countries and  Latin America, 
and all part of a colossal effort by PepsiCo to get the French to coupons 
and send them back to the company with the dream of winning a gold plated 
keychain, - or cash.

	PepsiCo has launched its media campaign unchallenged in size or 
magnitude by any other product or company in France. Over ten million 
dollars has been invested, with another million dollars of  prizes. The 
scheme is childishly simple : Collectors of yellow caps from Pepsi 
bottles -some 50 million bottles have been thrown onto the market here. 
Each cap contains a number between 1 and 999, corresponding to a money 
prize of $100 dollars, $200 dollars or one million francs ($200 000 

	Each night, minutes before the national 8 PM TV news programs, 
two hip animators, announce the winning numbers. And large-than-life 
billboards of shapely  "all-american" model Cindy Crawford holding an 
erect Pepsi bottle cover the charming Paris streets saying, « Do like 
Cindy, win millions by drinking Pepsi ».

	PepsiCo is not taking much chance on this loto-marketing, having 
taken polls and market studies on the French passion for loterie playing, 
and numbers. Go to any café in France and you can buy Loto cards for a 
couple of francs. Its as common as crossing the street.  PepsiCo expects 
to use its money loto campaign  to increase market sales by 30%. In 
Spain, Pepsi sales increased 35%, and in Poland, 65%. 
	Meanwhile, there is a virtual blackout in the French news here on 
Burma, excepet for the campaign mounted by UVI.net. Even in last 
weekend's Sunday edition of the prestigous, Le Monde, the French daily 
newspaper that only until recently never took advertising, hitherto black 
and white only, featured a front page story " Pepsi  'back in USSR' ", 
referring to Nikita Khrouchtchev Pepsi-in-hand  patronizing at the 1959 
american trade show in Moscow.  While trailing Coca Cola in Asia, Coke 
says they  both share 15% of the billion dollar a year Russian  cola 
market. Pepsi disagrees and claims to produce twice that amount there.

So a  new Cola war is launched. Both multinationals are investing 
billions in Russia, and PepsiCo last Saturday staged a rock concert in 
Red Square for 200,000, and  broadcast on national television with 
gesticulating endorsement by model  Cindy Crawford, If that wasn't 
enough, Pepsi called up  two Russian cosmonauts in the orbiting space 
station Mir, to launch its " Blue " campaign.

	Pepsi still has a long way to go before it seduces the Russians 
as they are trying here in France. The Russians drink twenty-three times 
less cola then Americans...

Incidently, on the same page of the Tuesday edition of  " Le Monde ", 
next to  the article " La 'NuméroMania' de Pepsi-Cola ", this once 
leftist-oriented paper features a story on French tourism, entitled " 
Touristes sous influences ", or " Tourists under the Influence ", on how 
 French travel agencies seduce voyagers to Asia. It describes " the 
triumph of  Burma " , and  how  French travel agencies pay journalists 
for travel stories  to help sell travel packages there " as their impact 
is much greater on consumers than advertising because they know the 
vision of what we are selling. It is no different that anything else sold 
to consumers. " 

And so it is that with  the Pepsi campaign, French consumers get their 
dose of  the economic consumer blitz, while unemployement here continues 
to rise, without any sign of it abating, and the opposition Party recedes 
further from site under pressure from the Right, disgraced, ridiculed, 
and buried by its legislative loss a year ago, after fourteen years of 
Mitterand-bankrupt socialism. It would appear that the French are now 
thoroughly  predisposed to consume Pepsi, and forget about the suffering 
of the Burmese people, the corruption of the Slorc junta, and the 
unethical practices of businesses and corporations out to make a fast 
buck on the Burma Boom trade. 

No, here, on a sleeply First of May Day of traditional worker solidarity, 
 this once great country France, which earlier this month awarded Burma 
with an International Tourist Award, is blissfully out of touch with what 
is going on today with the Free Burma activist movement in the United 
States to restore democracy to  the millions of workers and people  in 
Burma, enslaved by a military regime, like the French, doped by PepsiCo 
and a greedy and indifferent travel and tourist industry. Indeed, it is a 
sad day for all free workers in France.