It’s been decades since Pepsi lost millions on its partnership with Madonna, which brought the soft drink brand mountains of controversy. Now, following the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards, it seems that all has been made right between the conglomerate and the pop superstar.
Madonna has thanked Pepsi for finally airing a commercial that was pulled from the small screen more than three decades ago. It’s an odd moment in the history of the link between pop musicians and brands—one that for a long time was remembered as a failure, but which now seems to be taking on a new life.
The pop singer took to her Instagram to show the ad once more and speak directly to Pepsi. She started, “34 years ago I made a commercial with Pepsi to celebrate the release of my song Like a Prayer. The commercial was immediately canceled when I refused to change any scenes in the video where I was kissing a black saint or burning crosses.”
Madonna continued her message by explaining what the ad meant to her and her career, saying, “So began my illustrious career as an artist refusing to compromise my artistic integrity.” She later wrote that “Artists are here to disturb the peace.”
Finally, the Grammy winner actually name-dropped the brand and even tagged it, commenting, “Thank you @pepsi for finally realizing the genius of our collaboration.”
The commercial, which was released in 1989, was both meant to help the soda’s sales while also introducing Madonna’s new single “Like a Prayer.” The commercial itself wasn’t very controversial, but the singer released the official music video for “Like a Prayer” a day later, and that caused an uproar.
Pepsi pulled the commercial just days after it began airing after receiving complaints from religious groups for its connection with the chart-topper, as many were offended by her new music video. At the time, the company suffered a major loss, as it had already paid Madonna $5 million for the spot and spent millions more on ad time.
Now, Pepsi has now aired the commercial again, this time during the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards to mark its one hundred and twenty fifth anniversary. Throughout the show, the brand also showed another ad featuring Britney Spears which was even more costly, but far less controversial.
The commercial remains a reminder of Madonna’s willingness to push the boundaries of what is considered acceptable in popular culture. It is also a testament to her artistic integrity, which has made her one of the most successful and influential pop stars of all time.
At the same time, it shows how quickly tastes can change. Just a few decades ago, the ad was so hated it had to be pulled from TV, and even the pope called for a boycott of Pepsi. Now, it’s being aired once more as something of a celebration, and if there is any backlash, so far it’s so minor that it’s barely been noticed.