Madonna celebrates ‘banned commercial’ release 34 years after expensive ad was pulled

madonna at The 2016 Billboard Women in Music
Madonna’s previously-banned ad for Pepsi finally got released 34 years later. Pic credit: © Dennis Van Tine/StarMaxWorldwide

The Queen of Pop has been known to generate controversy in her music, videos, and performances over the years, with one of those controversies leading to a banned advertisement.

The music video for her hit song Like a Prayer was one of her most controversial due to its visuals and the subject matter it addressed.

Among the topics that Like a Prayer targeted were racism, police corruption, and biracial love, with Leon Robinson portraying a Black man wrongly accused of sexual assault. Martin de Porres, who is the patron saint of mixed-race people, was the inspiration for Robinson’s character.

Imagery included burning crosses, Madonna freeing the saint statue of Robinson’s character for a kiss, and her dancing in a church with a choir as they sang her song’s lyrics.

The song was featured as part of a $5 million deal in which Madonna appeared with her song in a Pepsi-Cola ad. While the ad was set to air in 1989, the company shut it down quickly after heavy outrage and protests from many people due to its association with her video.

The Vatican and various Christian groups called for Pepsi and all its subsidiaries to be boycotted globally due to Madonna’s controversial Like a Prayer music video (below). That led to the ad being shelved up until recently.

Madonna’s ‘banned’ ad gets released 34 years later

The 2023 MTV Video Music Awards brought several surprises, including the official release of Madonna’s previously-banned Pepsi commercial. The ad was unveiled as part of Pepsi’s 125th anniversary.

The commercial is tamer than her music video, is primarily shown in black and white, and features Madonna dancing with others outside of a diner. Her song Like a Prayer plays throughout the ad.

“Go ahead, make a wish,” she says at the start of the 30-second commercial.

The Queen of Pop took to Instagram to celebrate that her shelved Pepsi ad finally saw the light of day. She posted a video clip of the commercial and a statement in her caption.

“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,” she wrote.

“So began my illustrious career as an artist refusing to compromise my artistic integrity. Thank you @pepsi for finally realizing the genius of our collaboration,” Madonna’s caption said.

She closed with: “Artists are here to disturb the peace.”

Interestingly, the recently-released Pepsi advertisement closes with text that says “Celebrating 40 years of disrupting the status quo” on screen with several cans of Pepsi beverages next to it.

Madonna profited from Pepsi ad and its controversy

Like a Prayer was the title of Madonna’s fourth studio album, bringing plenty of controversy due to its title track and video. Before her music video’s release, Pepsi had given Madonna a $5 million endorsement deal. That deal was to make Pepsi the sponsor for her then-upcoming world tour and had her star in a commercial for their product.

According to Billboard, the ad got shelved due to all of the controversy her Like a Prayer video generated, but Madonna still kept the $5 million paycheck. That’s a pretty good deal, considering how the ad barely aired until 34 years later.

She also benefited from the controversy, which became a hallmark of her career as she disrupted and disturbed the peace many times. She’s since become a pop culture icon and musical legend after not backing down, refusing to be canceled, and standing by the art she created.

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