34 years later, Madonna celebrates her once-banned Pepsi ad

In 1989, Madonna produced "Like a Prayer," which was only the first of her many controversial music videos, leading Pepsi to cancel their advertising. But 34 years later, the company brought it back from the vault. On September 12, Pepsi aired a shorter version of the banned ad during the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards to celebrate its 125th anniversary and the singer's storied 40-year career, which she will kick off in October commemorating this on a celebratory tour.

Madonna has responded to the return of her banned ad on social media, explaining how it inspired her to stop compromising her art ever since. “Thirty-four years ago, I created a commercial with PepsiCo to celebrate the release of my song ‘Like a Prayer,’” she said. "When I refused to change any of the scenes in the video of kissing a black saint or burning a cross, the ad was immediately pulled. And so began my illustrious career as an artist who refused to compromise my artistic integrity." She went on to thank Pepsi. " Ultimately realizing the genius of our collaboration," and reminding everyone that "artists are here to disturb the peace."

View on Instagram

However, the pop star couldn't help but express some light-heartedness about how long it took Pepsi to lift the ban. On her Instagram Story, Madge shared a photo of herself drinking through a straw from a can of Coca-Cola, the company's biggest competitor. "Good too," she wrote in large red letters, with a winking emoji in the corner.


The two-minute ad itself isn't all that controversial, simply showing Madonna dancing in the street with nuns and revelers to "Like a Prayer," before she lies on a recliner at home watching the footage on TV, Holding a Pepsi in hand. The show attracted an estimated 250 million viewers in more than 40 countries, but despite its success, PepsiCo pulled the ad and terminated it in April 1989 after she released the music video for "Like a Prayer" sponsored her.

The video received backlash for its scenes of burning crosses and March seducing the angelic saint, but it also drew attention for its depiction of a black saint, a mixed-race couple and systemic racism in the police system that people today Perceptions of these will vary. Most stations refused to play the music video, with the exception of MTV, which regularly aired the video but then banned Madonna from future airings of the video. It was also condemned by the Vatican, but she refused to alter or censor any of the images, a decision that has stood the test of time.