Pepsi Avoids Ozzy Superbowl Ad Induced Boycott
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Pepsi will pay several million dollars to urban charities, heading off a threatened boycott over its decision to fire controversial rapper Ludacris as its pitchman, the soft drinks giant said on Tuesday.
The agreement came after hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons charged that the food and soft drink company unfairly yanked an ad campaign by black rapper Ludacris last year.
Simmons complained that Pepsi pulled the plug on Ludacris as a celebrity pitchman over complaints about his profanity-laced lyrics -- then hired equally foul-mouthed white rocker Ozzy Osbourne for a Super Bowl spot.
New York-based PepsiCo Inc., the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, founded by Simmons, and the Ludacris Foundation jointly announced the settlement on Tuesday.
Under the deal, Pepsi and the Ludacris Foundation have agreed to distribute million of dollars in contributions from Pepsi to grass-roots, nonprofit organizations targeting disadvantaged youth in the United States.
Precise terms were not disclosed although a source close to the matter said Pepsi pledged less than the $5 million that Simmons had demanded last week that the company make in charitable contributions to the Ludacris Foundation.
A demand for the company to reinstate the canceled Ludacris Pepsi television ad was also rejected.
"We've come to an agreement where the common ground is young people. We're working together on a multiyear, multi-city effort that will encourage kids to express their creativity in the visual and performing arts," Pepsi spokesman Bart Casabona said in a statement.
The controversy began last year when conservative Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly assailed Pepsi as "immoral" for featuring Ludacris and urged his viewers to boycott the beverage company. Pepsi yanked the 30-second television spot, saying it had received complaints about Ludacris' profane song lyrics.
Atlanta-based Ludacris, one of the biggest names in hip-hop's "Dirty South" movement, has earned a reputation for his explicit lyrics, including "Move Bitch," a hit featured on his 2001 album "Word of Mouf."