Arby's Has Pepsi -- and in case you didn't know, you'll know now with its new commercial

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 at 5:26 PM

Arby's has finally won me over.

The fast-food restaurant chiefly known for its various uses of roast beef nearly did it when it tweeted Pharrell to give it back its hat during the Grammy's. But still, I was hesitant. After all, well-timed comedy is good (and that hat did look an awful look like the restaurant's logo), but I'm not much for fast-food or processed meats and I've never been in a circle of friends who suggested -- when prompted after hunger had been identified -- that we should go to Arby's. In fact, I'm sure at least two of us would have offered up gas station sushi as an alternative plan to Arby's had such a proposal been put forth.

And to be truthful, I've jabbed at the beef purveyor a bit before because some ill-positioned condos in Erie happen to overlook one of its franchised establishments (I made a wisecrack about beef-n-cheddars -- and for that, Arby's, I'm sorry. It wasn't you; it was me -- I was just upset about poor planning and development in the city I call home).

But Arby's went ahead showed its genius while wearing its proverbial marketing hat. Turns out that life gave the Arby's folks lemons and they made some damn fine lemonade.

Actually, they gave themselves lemons and then righted their mistake in the best way possible.

See, restaurants generally feature either Coke or Pepsi products. Arby's features the latter, and in agreement with their arrangement, Arby's must feature its good friend Pepsi in at least two of its commercials annually. Nothing too flashy seemed to be expected, really -- just show some sandwiches, fried sides, and a tall, condensation-bead-laden glass of Pepsi casually hanging out beside them.

Subtle message: These saltier-than-average foods are best washed down your gullet with Pepsi -- not anything else. And that marketing's been working for years. For everyone.

Expect this year, Arby's forgot about Pepsi.

As the Wall Street Journal's Steven Perlberg notes: "In early October, Pepsi reached out to Arby’s with a friendly reminder: You need to include us in one more ad this year. The problem was that Arby’s already had its end-of-the-year creative ready to go — and it didn’t include Pepsi."

In short, Rob Lynch, chief marketing officer and brand president of Arby’s, went to Fallon, a Minneapolis-based ad firm owned by Publicis that handles creative for Arby’s, to resolve the problem. What they came back with is Marketing genius.

Rather than edit in a splash or two of Pepsi in an already shot, edited, and produced commercial waiting in the can, Fallon created a 30-second spot that straight-up acknowledges Arby's relationship to and agreement with Pepsi, admits its mistake, and features solely a sweaty glass of ice-cold Pepsi on screen for 25 seconds rounded out with (Arby's spokesman) Ving Rhames' booming bass declaring: "Arby's: We Have Pepsi" -- a spoof the marketing's teams latest tagline: Arby's We Have The Meat.

The commercial, which you can watch on YouTube below -- was upload Dec. 1 and already has more than a half-a-million views, so hats off to you, Arby's, for being cool with Fallon's non-traditional approach to righting your wrong. I've always been a fan of honesty and transparency -- maybe now I'll even be a fan of your sandwiches (and Pepsi).

Ben Speggen has watched this commercial several times already. He encourages you to do the same. If you want to talk about marketing, beef-n-cheddars, or curly fries, you can email him at and follow him on Twitter @ERBenSpeggen.

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