PURCHASE, NY—In what ad-industry insiders are calling the most ambitious marketing campaign in history, Pepsico launched a $2.8 billion deep-sea research initiative and media blitz Monday, targeting the elusive giant cephalopods believed to inhabit the oceans' farthest unexplored depths.

The Pepsi SodaQuest submersible

"We here at Pepsico have already blanketed the Earth's entire surface, achieving near-total ad saturation from the ice sheets of the Antarctic to the dense canopy of the Amazon rainforest," Pepsico vice-president of marketing Alec Herring told reporters. "Having long ago established Pepsi product awareness throughout the global human population, we remain committed to our stated goal of seeking out and advertising to every species on the planet, even those still unknown to science."

Giant undersea cephalopods, a species of giant octopus believed to be living undetected far beneath the ocean surface, "may or may not exist," according to marine biologists. The creatures, which are theorized to grow to hundreds of feet in diameter, are thought to be the only lifeform on the planet currently unaware of Pepsi's existence.

"If they're down there, we'll find them," Herring said, "and let them know about the many fine Pepsi products they've been missing out on, such as Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Pepsi One, Mountain Dew, Diet Mountain Dew, Mug Root Beer, Lemon-Lime Slice and Mandarin Orange Slice."

Though the 60-foot giant squid, which has never been observed alive in its own habitat, has been called "the last great mystery of the sea," the giant cephalopod—a name derived from the Latin for "head-foot"—is considered an even greater enigma. Thus far, all the evidence for the mysterious species comes from one specimen: a section of tentacle discovered by fishermen in the late 19th century.

"Misclassified for almost 100 years as a giant squid tentacle, recent reexamination proved that the specimen was actually the tentacle of a previously unknown species of octopus," said Dr. Daniel Brenner, the Pepsico marine biologist and niche-marketing expert in charge of the new undersea campaign. "Though the specimen represented only a small section of the animal, analysis indicates it was part of an animal that was likely more than 100 feet long--a massive creature not unlike the sea monsters of ancient lore. That kind of size means that, if they do exist, they can probably work up a powerful thirst."

An 1871 engraving of the mysterious giant cephalopod.

A smiling Brenner then lifted a can of Pepsi to his mouth, taking care to keep the label turned toward reporters at all times, before adding, "Ahhhhhh."

With so little known about the giant cephalopods, many ad-industry observers are questioning the wisdom of Pepsi's undersea campaign. Pepsi executives, however, assured naysayers that they are proceeding with caution.

"In 1997, plenty of people said we were foolish to consider marketing to the Loch Ness Monster," Pepsico media liaison John Druckenmiller said. "But after spending $18 million on feasibility studies which concluded that there was no hard evidence to support the Loch Ness legend, we canceled the campaign. Pepsico doesn't squander its advertising budget on ill-advised projects."

In an effort to locate and target-market the elusive creatures, Pepsi has developed the SodaQuest 6000 submersible, the most advanced piece of deep-sea advertising technology ever built. Guided by robot remote from a master control mounted to a stationary platform at sea level, the SQ6K is equipped with a wide range of state-of-the-art features, including motion-detection sensors that automatically project a series of videotaped Pepsi commercials into the surrounding darkness when triggered by the movement of any large object within 500 yards.

The SQ6K is also outfitted with tiny directional microspeakers that emit a constant signal of low-frequency Pepsi jingles. At timed intervals, it also releases trace elements of Pepsi, Diet Pepsi and Pepsi One into the water as a loss-leader promotional giveaway.

"We've been faced with tremendous technical challenges," Brenner said. "Just developing a form of carbonation that would remain fizzy under crushing sea-bed pressures was very difficult. What's more, using the animal's own natural reproduction-cycle pheromones to attract the potential consumer--a technique used to great success in targeting the Arctic hare, East African dung beetle and South American coatimundi--wasn't possible in this case, as we had no samples to work with."

Despite these difficulties, Brenner insisted that the Pepsi team would not give up. He said Pepsi hopes to track down the giant cephalopods by monitoring the giant squid upon which they are thought to feed--a problematic task, as no marine biologist has ever tracked giant squid successfully. Currently, Pepsi researchers are looking into the possibility of attaching extra-dermal 'crittercams' to sperm whales, the giant squid's primary predator.

"Sure, it's a tough demographic to reach," Brenner said. "But we feel confident we can make Pepsi 'The Choice Of A New Generation Of Undetected Multi-Tentacled Underwater Giants.'"

If the controversial campaign is successful, Pepsi will have achieved its longtime corporate mission of establishing product awareness throughout the entire biomass. This would pave the way for what Pepsi executives call "the next step": lowering massive billboards into the mouths of live volcanoes to achieve total ad saturation in the Earth's molten core.