Prepared Foods October 31, 2005 e-newsletter

Coca-Cola is taking another whack at marketing Coke Zero -- with new television commercials, a Wal-Mart promotion and "a school vending blitz," according to a document that the company circulated among bottlers.

Coke Zero, a diet drink, is designed to taste more like regular Coke than Diet Coke does. It was launched in June with a remake of Coke's famous 1971 "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" commercial performed on an Italian hilltop. The ad starred G. Love performing "I'd Like to Teach the World to Chill" on a rooftop in Philadelphia.

The company was criticized for the remake, which left many consumers asking: What is Coke Zero? To deal with that, the company in August added another commercial with a spinning Coke Zero bottle and the tagline "Real Coca-Cola Taste, Zero Calories, No Compromise."

The upcoming commercials, which focus on the zero-calorie message and the flavor, carry the message: Coca-Cola taste, zero calories ... Try it to believe it! The new commercials were created by Crispin Porter + Bogusky, a Miami agency that also created the G. Love commercials. The three spots are supposed to have a humorous tone and will begin airing next month in "an intense four-week media push," the bottler document said.

Chief executive Neville Isdell said when the company issued third-quarter earnings that a new campaign was in the works but gave no details.

There has been some dispute about whether Coke Zero is meeting expectations. The drink attained 0.9% of the supermarket carbonated soft drink market in the four-week period that started in mid-June. Since then, it has declined to a 0.7% share.

In August, well-known analyst Bill Pecoriello at Morgan Stanley issued a report saying that Coke Zero was falling short of his projection of a 1.5% share, which he claimed was in line with Coke's internal projections. Coke, however, has maintained that Coke Zero is exceeding expectations. In the bottler document, the company touts statistics such as 70% of males ages 18-34 who tried the drink have had it again.

Either way, the company now seems more heavily committed to the product, which executives have said they are treating as a mega-brand along the lines of Coke and Diet Coke.

In addition to the commercials, there also will be promotions at convenience stores and grocery stores, free samples near college campuses, new Coca-Cola Zero vending machine fronts in schools and a promotion with Wal-Mart that includes free samples and an ad on, according to the bottler document.

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution