Pepsi thought they hit advertising gold when they signed Madonna to a $5 million deal in 1989.
Instead, they got a big controversy.
For the campaign, Pepsi would debut Madonna’s new song “Like a Prayer” in a commercial. A 30-second version of the commercial would then play throughout the summer.
Production got off to a rocky start. Madonna refused to say the word Pepsi in her song for the commercial.
Despite its rough start, the commercial was a success. It mixed Catholic Church imagery and Pepsi and was a nice, sentimental piece. The problem was it only aired once.
A day later, Madonna released her own video for “Like a Prayer”.
Here’s a rundown of what Madonna does in her video:
- witnesses a murder
- runs into a church with her bra hanging out
- kisses a statue of a saint
- has sex with a black man on a church pew
- dances in front of BURNING CROSSES
- sings with a church choir (oh how wholesome, maybe this will work out after all)
- has bleeding stigmata on both palms as if she was crucified (whoops, maybe not)
Just the type of images Pepsi wanted for its brand.
Under public pressure, Pepsi stopped airing their commercial. They also ended their sponsorship of Madonna’s upcoming tour.
But Madonna was able to keep her $5 million. And Like a Prayer went on to become the No. 1 single and album in over 30 countries.