Have a Coke and a smile!

Coke Mounts Ad Campaign for Classic Brand
ATLANTA (Reuters) – Coca-Cola Co. on Thursday unveiled a new advertising campaign for its slumping Coke Classic brand in the United States, the latest offensive in the soft drink maker’s bitter battle with PepsiCo. Inc. for control of the $30 billion U.S. cola market.
The world’s No. 1 soft drink maker said the campaign, which features actresses Penelope Cruz and Courteney Cox, boxing legend Muhammad Ali and R&B singer Mya, could be adapted and extended to its more than 200 markets around the world later in the year.
The United States is the largest and most important market for Atlanta-based Coca-Cola and its main rival PepsiCo.
Coca-Cola, which has been criticized for poor marketing in recent years, said it attempted to design a unique advertising platform that would strike an authentic, emotional and contemporary chord with consumers, especially teenagers and young adults, who are the key target audience of the campaign.
The tagline “Coca-Cola Real,” a throwback to the 1960’s slogan, “It’s the real thing,” has been added as part of the campaign. The television ads will debut on Monday during the American Music Awards program on the ABC network.
“These ads convey what consumers told us it means to ‘be real’ — being true to yourself, plugging in to life and connecting with others with a natural optimism,” said Esther Lee, chief creative officer with Coca-Cola’s North American division.
More than a dozen new Coke Classic television ads and a number of print and radio spots are scheduled to appear in the first quarter of 2003, including several aimed at the African-American and Hispanic communities, Coca-Cola said.
Some ads will be tied to Coke’s sponsorship of NASCAR racing and NCAA sports.
World-class cyclist Lance Armstrong and NASCAR driver Tony Stewart are among the athletes who appear in the U.S. commercials, most of which were crafted by WPP Group’s Berlin Cameron/Red Cell rather than Coke’s lead ad agency, Interpublic Group of Cos.’ McCann-Erickson.
Industry insiders said the soft drink maker’s ads revealed a more playful and humorous side, as well as a desire to connect to everyday people by portraying celebrities and others in real life situations.
One of the celebrity spots shows the dazzling Cruz entering a diner and belching after chugging a bottle of Coke.
“These ads represent a quantum leap forward for Coke Classic advertising,” said John Sicher, editor of Beverage Digest, a leading industry newsletter. “They put as much or more emphasis on the consumer’s relationship to the brand as they do the brand itself.”
The campaign, which also includes a graphics and packaging make-over, will be the first comprehensive promotional push on behalf of Coke Classic since the poorly received “Life Tastes Good” campaign two years ago.
That advertising blitz was pulled in the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon complex in Washington, D.C.
Chris Lowe, chief marketing officer for Coca-Cola North America, would not disclose how much Coca-Cola intended to spend on its new marketing campaign, although he did say it would be the company’s main advertising effort this year.
Purchase, New York-based PepsiCo. is expected to launch an ad campaign for its core Pepsi-Cola brand later this year.
Although Coke Classic remains the most popular soft drink in the United States, its volume in supermarkets and other retail stores dropped 0.8 percent in the first 11 months of 2002, according to Beverage Digest.
Other leading soft drink brands experienced even sharper volume drops than the Classic brand. Pepsi’s namesake brand saw its volumes drop 1.5 percent and Coke’s Sprite brand fell 4 percent in the same period, according to Beverage Digest.
While retailers are not the only source of cola sales, analysts said it was important that Coca-Cola mount a solid marketing campaign for its best-selling and most profitable brand in order to keep the momentum generated by the successful launch last year of the Vanilla Coke brand.
“I think they have shown with Vanilla Coke that they can breathe life back into the Coca-Cola trademark,” J.P. Morgan analyst John Faucher said. “This is a key factor in terms of them maintaining the momentum in North America,” added Faucher, who has a neutral rating on Coca-Cola’s stock.
Coke shares, which have been mired in a prolonged slump, rose 46 cents to close at $44.53 on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday. PepsiCo. was 44 cents higher at $43.14 on the NYSE.
Analysts said a successful Coke Classic campaign also would take some pressure off Coca-Cola Chairman and Chief Executive Douglas Daft, who pledged to improve the company’s performance after formally taking over in February 2000.
Daft and the rest of the Coca-Cola management team have grappled in the past year with the impact of an economic slowdown in key markets, most notably Latin America.