The key factor for Pepsi in deciding which pop stars are appropriate pop pitchmen and women is now, apparently, ''The O'Reilly Factor.'' A day after Fox News Channel host Bill O'Reilly blasted the soda bottler for using ads featuring Ludacris, Pepsi has yanked the ads, citing consumer complaints over the rapper's profane and violent lyrics.
On Tuesday, on both his radio show and on FNC's ''The O'Reilly Factor,'' O'Reilly called Pepsi ''immoral'' for giving exposure to the top-selling rapper, calling him a bad influence on impressionable children and citing as an example his lyrical boast that he has ''hoes in different area codes.'' A Pepsi spokesman pointed out that Ludacris doesn't rap such lyrics in Pepsi commercials, where he merely appears as a funny, popular, and G-rated guy. But O'Reilly pointed out that Pepsi had a precedent for canning a pop spokesperson for behavior unrelated to its ads; in 1989, it dropped Madonna as a spokeswoman after her ''Like a Prayer'' video struck some viewers as sacrilegious. He called for a boycott and said he was switching to Dr. Pepper. (Asked on the show if there was any R&B or hip-hop figure he could support as a Pepsi pitchman, O'Reilly said, ''Chubby Checker.'')
On Wednesday, Pepsi changed its tune. ''We have a responsibility to listen to our customers -- and we've heard from a number of people that they were uncomfortable with our association with this artist,'' the company said in a statement. ''We've decided to discontinue our ad campaign with the artist, and we're sorry that we've offended anyone. There are many different types of talented celebrities and artists, but not all of them are compatible with our brands and what consumers have come to expect from us.''
A spokeswoman for Def Jam, Ludacris' label, told Reuters she was ''shocked'' by Pepsi's decision. As for the ''Word of Mouf'' rapper, he has just been confirmed as a costar in John Singleton's '''The Fast and the Furious 2,'' where he and Tyrese will apparently fill the hip-hop gap left when Ja Rule dropped out of the sequel last month. No word on whether O'Reilly plans to call for a boycott of Universal Pictures.