This was the first song by a major artist to be used in a commercial before being released to stores or radio stations. With the cola wars heating up, Pepsi signed Madonna to a $5 million endorsement deal, which included a two-minute commercial that would debut this song. The spot, overseen by Pepsi's ad agency BBDO, was called "Make A Wish
," and showed Madonna watching an 8-year-old version of herself and doing some jubilant street dancing.
The commercial was promoted in a 30-second spot that aired during the Grammy Awards on February 22, 1989 (yes, a commercial for a commercial). Then on March 2, it aired on prime time television worldwide, including in America where it was seen on The Cosby Show
. The Pepsi people claimed that 250 million viewers saw the ad, and that they were clearly the choice of the younger generation, as their partnerships with Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, and now Madonna, demonstrated. The commercial was clever and innocent, and the song was also a winner, clearly destined for #1 with such an auspicious debut.
The song was released the next day and instantly added to radio playlists around the world. It was also added on MTV, but instead of creating a video that was an extension of the commercial, Madonna hijacked it. Instead of an 8-year-old girl at a birthday party, we see Madonna witness a brutal crime and take refuge in a church. She shares an interracial kiss, gets stigmata on her hands, and dances in front of burning crosses. Predictably, religious groups were outraged, with the American Family Association and The Vatican condemning it. Pepsi, facing a boycott, dropped Madonna and never again aired the commercial.
Madonna and MTV were the big winners here. Those who thought she came off as a recalcitrant priss tended to be older, conservative folks who were far outside of her target audience, and the kind of authority figures her fanbase (the same ones Pepsi was going after) despised. In defying her corporate suitor, Madonna showed that her art was more important than their money. Pepsi got the song for a day, but MTV (always a Madonna stronghold), got the rest of the run and benefited from the controversy as viewers tuned in to see what the fuss was about.
Pepsi had two more commercials planned and was going to sponsor her Blonde Ambition tour, but they dropped all association with Madonna, who got to keep the $5 million.