Cannes Lions

Pepsi + EMPIRE Partnership

OMD, New York / PEPSICO / 2016


1 Bronze Cannes Lions
1 Shortlisted Cannes Lions
Case Film
Supporting Images
Supporting Images






Partnering directly with the Creators, Executive Producers, Writers, and Music Producers, we created a 3-episode Pepsi arc that blended fiction and reality throughout the EMPIRE storyline, characters and music both in-show -- and in real life.

Through a collaborative briefing process resulting in a narrative informed by real-life brand experiences, we positioned Jamal as the rising artist featured within our Pepsi commercial, and EMPIRE Creator and Executive Producer, Lee Daniels, as its Director. The story was amplified by powerful in-show moments featuring Jamal collaborating with his feuding parents to create a literal and figurative harmony of his winning song.

This plotline was mirrored by a real-life deal in which Daniels directed an original Pepsi commercial featuring entertainer, Jussie Smollett, that debuted during the show’s mid-season finale.

Out of show, we gave fans an “insider” look at the real-life personas of Jussie, Lee, and other EMPIRE talent via Pepsi Social channels.


Over three episodes, fans watched as Jamal Lyon wrote an original song to become the star of Pepsi’s ad campaign -- directed in-show and in real life by Lee Daniels. At the same time Pepsi engaged fans outside of show with exclusive social content.

#208: In-show, Jamal’s new song, “Ready to Go,” won him a place within Pepsi’s roster of talent. In real life, Pepsi forged a partnership with Jussie Smollett, with iTunes releasing the Swizz Beats-produced song as “Ready to Go–Pepsi”–placing Pepsi directly on fan playlists.

#209: Daniels made a first-ever cameo as himself, directing Jamal’s Pepsi commercial. In real life, Pepsi partnered with Daniels to create and direct the actual commercial.

#210: In-show Jamal premiered his “Pepsi commercial”, which cut directly to the 60-second spot airing on FOX as if it was part of the show. The episode resumed with positive reactions to Jamal’s new superstardom.


The Pepsi + EMPIRE “meta” story was a success.

Pepsi reinforced its role within the pop culture zeitgeist -- breaking the interruptive model of 30-second commercials and replacing it with an authentic brand role that enhanced the music story.

The partnership delivered +4.7 lift in Pepsi Sales, and “Pepsi-drinking Empire Fans” grew 3.62 percentage points (vs. Coke and Dr. Pepper’s +0.95). We saw significant increases across key Brand metrics, including a 245% increase in Likeability, 207% increase in in Message Memorability and 60% increase in Brand association (vs. Beverage norms).

Fans, Celebrities and the Industry also took notice. We drove a cross-cultural conversation, generating a 3000% increase in social conversation with EMPIRE fans tweeting about Pepsi. We also delivered over 1.4 Billion press impressions, equating to $28MM+ in advertising value, with positive press pickup across multiple outlets including Ad Age, WSJ, Entertainment Weekly, Billboard, Bloomberg Businessweek, Variety and Rolling Stone.

Similar Campaigns

12 items

From the Mighty Oat


From the Mighty Oat


(opens in a new tab)