PepsiCo, Purchase, N.Y., invited Americans to cast their votes for the first segment of winners of the Pepsi Refresh Project, which is one online program it has implemented instead of advertising during the Super Bowl. 

PepsiCo told news sources in December that it would not advertise its beverages during the Super Bowl, opting instead to open a two-way dialogue with consumers on the Internet. In January, the company announced the Pepsi Refresh Project and its plans to fund projects that make a difference in six categories: health, the planet, neighborhoods, education, arts and culture as well as food and shelter. The project will award more than $20 million during the year to consumer ideas that move communities forward.

“Pepsi’s decision to utilize social media certainly created a national buzz, but comes as no surprise,” said Jay Berkowitz, instructor and interactive marketing expert for the University of San Francisco Internet marketing training program, in a statement. 

During the next five years, social media marketing is projected to grow at an annual rate of 34 percent, according to Forrester Research, Cambridge, Mass. In addition, the Super Bowl attracts approximately 42 percent of all U.S. TV homes, while more than 85 percent currently use a form of social media, according to the university.

The Refresh Project’s Web site,, received 1,000 entries from Americans who have shared their ideas for social projects and programs. These ideas have been posted and voters can cast their votes for the best ideas.

The session of voting, which began yesterday, is the first of 11 opportunities for the public to win grants in denominations of $5,000 up to $250,000 throughout the year. The program started on Jan. 13 and received the monthly limit of 1,000 submissions in less than seven days, with at least one entry from each state in the United States. The winners will be announced March 1.

This month’s program also includes celebrity entries from actors Demi Moore and Kevin Bacon. Moore is campaigning in support of Girls Educational & Mentoring Service, which helps women who have experienced sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking integrate back into society as healthy, safe and productive individuals. Her challenger, Bacon, wants to provide thousands of people with gift cards from, which can be donated to their preferred charities.

The winner of the Pepsi Refresh Celebrity Challenge will be chosen by votes on the Pepsi Refresh Project’s Facebook page. The most popular plan, either from Moore or Bacon, will be awarded $250,000 by Pepsi. The Facebook page also will host a Great Ideas Brainstorm featuring the actors as well as Jill Beraud, chief marketing officer and president of joint ventures for PepsiCo Americas Beverages; Majora Carter, advisory board member; and college students from New York City area.