In the spring of 1989, during an episode of The Cosby Show (I watched it live!), Pepsi ran an unprecedented 2 minute ad* debuting Madonna’s new single “Like a Prayer.” The video for the ad was designed as a Pepsi commercial, not a music video, but the music was the original song. It wasn’t edited into a jingle.
Madonna was paid $5 million dollars, with the plan of running a shorter 30-second version beginning the following day.
But the next day was also the debut of the music video for Like a Prayer. The video’s blending of sexuality, religion, and racial politics caused quite a stir. The pope actually had Madonna banned from Italy. Donald Wildmon, founder of the American Family Association, led the charge calling on Pepsi to abandon the ad or face a boycott. Pepsi caved in to the pressure, while Madonna walked away with the money.
When Madonna later won Video of the Year at the MTV Music Awards, she declared “I would really like to thank Pepsi for causing so much controversy.” Pepsi was a sponsor of the award show.They had done something similar in 1984 with Michael Jackson, but Jackson actually changed to “Billie Jean” into a song about Pepsi for the commercial. Pepsi ran Madonna’s song unchanged.