“Two Full Glasses, That’s a Lot”

 

pepsi best adPepsi-Cola hits the spot
Two full glasses, that’s a lot
Why take less when Pepsi’s best?

Listening to Counterspy, an old time radio program from the 1940s and 1950s, I was gradually struck by the sponsor’s advertising campaign. Pepsi was the sponsor for several years, and their big pitch in the context of World War II and post-war belt-tightening was that Pepsi was more economical than the unnamed competitors, Coca-Cola and its distinctive bottle first and foremost. Pepsi’s big idea, their play? The original super-sized packaging, the 12-ounce bottle.

The jingles and the script repeatedly pointed to 12 ounces as two servings. That seems strange to us today, but that is because our glassware, our tumblers, our mugs, have grown to accommodate larger portions over the decades. Consider that Coke was mostly purchased in a 6.5-ounce bottle. That was a serving. Think about airlines when they served you cold drinks in plastic cups, the same cups found at the bar of any catered party. Fill the glass with ice and pour soda over the ice. You are getting about half a 12-ounce can.

So, the pitch made sense in the 1940s and early 1950s. “Two six-ounce servings” in a Pepsi bottle meant that a good host or hostess would pick up “a carton of six big bottles for entertainment, that’s 12 sparkling drinks.” Today, we think refrigerator pack, case, or several six-packs for a party or cook-out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-Nu9bh4g4Ust&feature=youtu.be

Oh, and Pepsi was sweeter than Coke because it had more sugar. Coke weighed in around 140 calories per 12 ounces, versus Pepsi at 150 calories. So this was a shift from about 70 calories for a Coke bottle to 150 for a Pepsi bottle, if you opened and drank one. Yet, enjoying an extra-large serving was not the pitch 75 years ago.

Two full glasses, that’s a lot
Why take less when Pepsi’s best?

A bit more discovery: Pepsi launched this early cola war with a revolutionary marketing team. They hired African American sales executives and had an associated ad campaign that featured middle-class blacks as normal Americans, even as white segregationists were digging in and doubling down on Jim Crow.

pepsi familyWalter Mack served as the president of Pepsi-Cola Company from 1938 until 1951. Mack was far ahead of his time (and his peers) in recognizing the economic power of black consumers.

It was under his direction that Pepsi kicked off the “cola wars” with a focus on hiring African-American sales executives. He began by hiring Herman Smith in 1940, who was an ad man “from the Negro newspaper field” to help promote Pepsi in African-American communities. By 1948 there were 12 African-American executives selling Pepsi nationwide from corporate headquarters. Remember, this was during the pre-civil-rights era.

Notice the all-American family of husband, wife, and two children, a boy and a girl. Mom is a homemaker and Dad has his starched white shirt and tie firmly in place. Those “6 BIG BOTTLES” cost less than a dollar, but were not second quality stuff. Pepsi was going after both the ethnic majority market, and the untapped rising black community, stealing a march on Coca-Cola while Coke operated out of what was already a center of black economic advancement.

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  1. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Great post about a nearly forgotten topic. In 1952, a humorist noticed the GOP’s new, Madison Avenue-juiced campaign methods and parodied the jingle:

    Eisenhower hits the spot,

    One full general, that’s a lot

    Feeling troubled, feeling sick?

    Take a shot of Ike and Dick

    • #1
  2. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Everything I’m seeing show 12 oz as one serving these days.

    • #2
  3. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Nicholas Dreystadt was a GM executive appointed head of Cadillac in 1934. He came up with a novel way to promote the car, still running second to haughty Packard in the luxury car field: he made a strong effort to market to Blacks. It worked. There’s even a line of dialog in The Godfather that acknowledged that. Generations later, film critic Pauline Kael tartly noted that “Foreign films associate Cadillacs with capitalism; Americans associate them with Negroes”. That was Dreystadt’s doing. 

    • #3
  4. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    More proof Coca-Cola should be less White.

    • #4
  5. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    But wait, on a 20 oz bottle of Coke, it’s also one serving.

    • #5
  6. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Size has definitely gone up.

    • #6
  7. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Size has definitely gone up.

    In more ways than one!

    • #7
  8. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Size has definitely gone up.

    In more ways than one!

    I resemble that remark.

    • #8
  9. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Size has definitely gone up.

    Yes, the cooler racks at store checkout stands are filled with tall 16 ounce soda cans these days, with plastic bottles around .5 liter.

    • #9
  10. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    I can remember this competition as if it were yesterday. My grandfather had a community grocery store in Atlanta at the end of World War II. One thing to understand about these soft drinks during that period is that each came packaged for retail in only one form, Coca-Cola in the famous 6-ounce bottle and those known as “belly-washers” that included Pepsi in 12-ounce bottles. None came in cans at the end of the war. There were two other major competitors in the 12-ounce category in Atlanta, Royal Crown (RC) Cola and Red Rock Cola. This was, presumably, the classic example of the proposition that more is better but Coke was(is) hard to beat.

    • #10
  11. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    I can remember this competition as if it were yesterday. My grandfather had a community grocery store in Atlanta at the end of World War II. One thing to understand about these soft drinks during that period is that each came packaged for retail in only one form, Coca-Cola in the famous 6-ounce bottle and those known as “belly-washers” that included Pepsi in 12-ounce bottles. None came in cans at the end of the war. There were two other major competitors in the 12-ounce category in Atlanta, Royal Crown (RC) Cola and Red Rock Cola. This was, presumably, the classic example of the proposition that more is better but Coke was(is) hard to beat.

    I forgot to mention these soft drinks in these bottles went for a nickel each or a six pack for a quarter and a bottle deposit of two cents a bottle if you came without empties.

    • #11
  12. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member
    9thDistrictNeighbor
    @9thDistrictNeighbor

    My grandfather worked in a “pop shop” bottling beverages.  When we would go over and visit we were treated to a juice glass of pop. And that was it.  The cap went back on and the bottle was put back in the Frigidaire. 

     

    • #12
  13. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    I can remember this competition as if it were yesterday. My grandfather had a community grocery store in Atlanta at the end of World War II. One thing to understand about these soft drinks during that period is that each came packaged for retail in only one form, Coca-Cola in the famous 6-ounce bottle and those known as “belly-washers” that included Pepsi in 12-ounce bottles. None came in cans at the end of the war. There were two other major competitors in the 12-ounce category in Atlanta, Royal Crown (RC) Cola and Red Rock Cola. This was, presumably, the classic example of the proposition that more is better but Coke was(is) hard to beat.

    I forgot to mention these soft drinks in these bottles went for a nickel each or a six pack for a quarter and a bottle deposit of two cents a bottle if you came without empties.

    Thanks for the extra detail. I had some awareness of the wider cola war, but not the details of the smaller players. I have had RC Cola, including with a Moon Pie.

    • #13
  14. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    My first home, in the south Bronx, was a block away from a 7-Up bottling plant. Ramps were built into the second floor of that building, so outgoing trucks were almost at eye level from an apartment. In those days the trucks were uncovered and the wooden cases of soda were right out on tempting open display, for fast unloading at stores. It was also great advertising as the trucks drove all over the city.  

    To a little kid, the 7-Up motto of the time was friendly: “You Like It–It Likes You”. 

    • #14
  15. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    Pepsi dropped the portion advantage argument in the late 50s – early 60s for a new pitch: it was the preferred cola of Young Moderns. “Be young and fair and debonair!” Print campaigns with stylish young couples; radio ads featuring a breathy-voiced woman named Kaye, I believe, who bantered with a man about how Pepsi was essential for the times when you were “sociable.”

    I have an upcoming website in the works about 50s advertising, and the contrast between Pepsi and Coke is striking. Pepsi went for a subdued sex appeal – you’ll be thin, and hence have more rhumba in your life – and used women’s magazine illustrators to craft sophisticated tableaus.  Coke was all over the road, hitting all the old notes about “refreshment” while making it the obvious choice for the conformist-consumer class. Coke was happiness and prosperity, and it did not admit the existence of alternatives; the ads just reinforced the wisdom of your brand preference. Pepsi had to fight that with glamour, and they did a good job.

    • #15
  16. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    It’s interesting that all the big players seemed to come from the South. There were and are brands from further north, but I’d say that Coke (‘Lanter), Pepsi (Carolina), and RC (Columbus, Georgia) were the biggest three.

    • #16
  17. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Due (I’d guess) to the high weight and relatively low cash value of sodas, they are bottled close to their markets. For generations, having the Coca-Cola bottling franchise for a city or town was a ticket to success. Pepsi diversified into a broader snacks-and-drinks company. Coca-Cola stuck to their roots as a syrup maker and franchiser. Mostly; but it’s done some odd things, like buy Columbia Pictures. For some time they didn’t have an ad agency; their consultant, the Creative Artists Agency, hired teams directly. This resulted in some surprisingly good but very generic ads with winter landscapes and bears. 

    In the meantime, Pepsi has struggled to find and keep a competitive theme. Usually they try too hard. “Gotta Have It” smacked of desperation. The Ray Charles ads were well received, so the Uh-Huh Girls had a brief, glamorous run. The first Obama inaugural prompted a logo change to something that looked suspiciously like the new president’s campaign logo with the theme, “Refresh Everything!”  More recently they tried “Live For Now”, that is, forget about the future. 

    Pepsi’s most famous recent fiasco, the Kylie Jenner “demonstration” ad, was an in house production by Pepsi’s rather pompously named “The Creative League”. 

    • #17
  18. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Historically, Hollywood studios have tried to avoid using real brand names in films. Writer-director Billy Wilder always objected to that, as he felt it was silly and unrealistic to describe, say, a car and a newspaper as a Remsen Eight and the New York Bugle when he clearly meant to say, a Pontiac and the New York Daily News. Well, when Billy made a Cold War comedy right smack in the middle of Berlin as the Wall was going up, he wasn’t going to make an exception:

     

    • #18
  19. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    I can remember this competition as if it were yesterday. My grandfather had a community grocery store in Atlanta at the end of World War II. One thing to understand about these soft drinks during that period is that each came packaged for retail in only one form, Coca-Cola in the famous 6-ounce bottle and those known as “belly-washers” that included Pepsi in 12-ounce bottles. None came in cans at the end of the war. There were two other major competitors in the 12-ounce category in Atlanta, Royal Crown (RC) Cola and Red Rock Cola. This was, presumably, the classic example of the proposition that more is better but Coke was(is) hard to beat.

    I forgot to mention these soft drinks in these bottles went for a nickel each or a six pack for a quarter and a bottle deposit of two cents a bottle if you came without empties.

    My late mother (grew up in Washington, D.C. in the 1930s and 1940s) recalled from her childhood Pepsi jingles emphasizing “twice as much and only a nickel too.” 

    • #19
  20. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    I smile when I remember that when you ordered orange juice in a restaurant back then, it came in a little 3 oz. glass – that was a proper serving of orange juice. All servings were much smaller, and somehow we all did just fine.

    Then I look down at my waistline and I stop smiling.

    • #20
  21. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    I didn’t know that Pepsi had more sugar than Coca-Cola.  That fact made me think of the many crackdowns on alcoholism in the Soviet Union, when people responded by using any sugar source they could find to make their own vodka, which then caused other shortages. I suppose the fact that Pepsi got the famous contract to sell in the Soviet Union didn’t have anything to do with that, though.

    • #21
  22. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    Clifford A. Brown: Notice the all-American family of husband, wife, and two children, a boy and a girl. Mom is a homemaker and Dad has his starched white shirt and tie firmly in place. Those “6 BIG BOTTLES” cost less than a dollar, but were not second quality stuff. Pepsi was going after both the ethnic majority market, and the untapped rising black community, stealing a march on Coca-Cola while Coke operated out of what was already a center of black economic advancement.

    What strikes me about this advertising is that the whole family (except perhaps Dad) just looks like white folks with darker skin. That’s OK if it was effective.

    Also I think I remember some soda price wars in the late 60’s, or maybe it was just among supermarkets. This was in San Francisco. I definitely remember buying six packs of bottles – Pepsi or RC – for 69 cents or even less.

    • #22
  23. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily
    @tigerlily

    Great post! Thanks Clifford.

    • #23
  24. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    There’s more of interest in the final ad.  To my eyes, the Mother looks white, the Father black, the kids almost as dark as their dad.  Compare the upraised right arm of the boy to that of his mom.  Look also at her hair and the shape of her face.  This is an interracial couple.  Good for Pepsi!

    • #24
  25. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    There’s more of interest in the final ad. To my eyes, the Mother looks white, the Father black, the kids almost as dark as their dad. Compare the upraised right arm of the boy to that of his mom. Look also at her hair and the shape of her face. This is an interracial couple. Good for Pepsi!

    Actually no. Her hair is straightened, and she is lighter skinned, so might have higher relative status in the messed up world of color-coded society. At the time, by your assessment, she could be said to be almost able “to pass.”

    • #25
  26. Headedwest Coolidge
    Headedwest
    @Headedwest

    As a little kid I didn’t much like Coke; the taste was too intense. Pepsi was not interesting. I drank Nehi and stuff like that.

    Later Coke became my favorite soft drink when my tastes matured a little; then they brought out New Coke (Pepsi in a coke bottle). But when they cancelled New Coke, the Classic Coke still tasted more like Pepsi than it did the real Coke flavor. Still does.

    There is a bottling company in Texas that produces “Vintage Cola” made with sugar and it tastes as much like real Coke as anything I can get now. It’s expensive but I buy a bottle now and then.

     

     

    • #26
  27. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    There’s more of interest in the final ad. To my eyes, the Mother looks white, the Father black, the kids almost as dark as their dad. Compare the upraised right arm of the boy to that of his mom. Look also at her hair and the shape of her face. This is an interracial couple. Good for Pepsi!

    Actually no. Her hair is straightened, and she is lighter skinned, so might have higher relative status in the messed up world of color-coded society. At the time, by your assessment, she could be said to be almost able “to pass.”

    She passed for me!

    • #27
  28. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring
    @WillowSpring

    Are ya’ll talking about CoCola?  That s all my grandmother ever had.  It was served from a large ice cooler (like at a gas station) on the screen porch with the opener built in.  You would never think of getting one just for yourself.

    • #28
  29. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    WillowSpring (View Comment):

    Are ya’ll talking about CoCola? That s all my grandmother ever had. It was served from a large ice cooler (like at a gas station) on the screen porch with the opener built in. You would never think of getting one just for yourself.

    That’s the way it was when I was a kid. Except for vending machines, the sodas weren’t kept in a glass-doored refrigerator like they are now. They were kept in icy cold water, and you reached right in to choose one. There was next to no residential air conditioning in those days, and the joy of the coldness was a big part of the appeal of soft drinks. “Church key” can openers were common. 

    • #29
  30. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    There was a funny editorial cartoon in 2000 that depicted Clinton and Gore as two barefoot Southerners in bib overalls, sitting on the porch of a country store. In place of the usual rusty Ford F-150 up on wooden blocks, there was a Volvo; instead of a Coke vending machine, they had one that dispensed Evian water. “Y’all come back now, y’ hear?”

    • #30