Sometimes a soft drink is more than just a soft drink. Take the two titans of popular carbonated beverages - Pepsi and Coke. As told in the amusing and informative documentary titled Burp! Pepsi v Coke in the Ice Cold War, their history on the battleground of consumer dominance is rich and checkered, and involves many of the key players in global politics from the past century.
The film provides us with a brief history of each brand's origins. Coca-Cola was invented by pharmacist Dr. John Pemberton, who initially laced his tasty syrup with cocaine. He soon sold the business for a measly sum to Atlanta businessman Asa Candler, under whose leadership the brand flourished as an essential representation of American values and progress.
Pepsi was first introduced to the public in the late 1800's as a pleasurable cure to an upset stomach. In spite of Coca-Cola's stream of litigious actions against all imitators, Pepsi somehow managed to survive, and currently enjoys popularity in more than 145 countries all over the world.
As elucidated in the film, the tug-of-war between the two brands has been fought on many fronts. For example, their endless game of one-upmanship played out in the open within the realm of advertising. Collectively, both companies perfected the ability of advertising to influence popular culture around the globe.
Wartime was a particularly advantageous period of time for both brands. Which brand was more uniquely American? Which was more supportive of the troops, and of the United States' efforts to defeat communism? Any claims of immoral war profiteering were drowned out by the gulping sounds of satisfied customers.
The film fully succeeds in its exploration of the surprising ties between global politics and consumer products. We see Coke and Pepsi's exploits with world leaders in Cuba, the Soviet Union, China and Chile, as well as their efforts to promote diplomacy and even influence military outcomes.
Burp! Pepsi v Coke in the Ice Cold War may be satirical in tone at times, but its insights into the hypnotizing power of advertising in shaping consumer taste and global affairs couldn't be more serious.