WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA?

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A homosexual marriage, a missing POW, Joey Buttafuoco and an Asian guy who can dance. Today on Jerry Springer? Nope. It's Santa Monica agency Ground Zero's campaign for the U.S. launch of Virgin Cola, in which real people literally stand up on a box festooned with the Virgin logo and "Say Something," as the campaign is called. So what the heck does all this have to do with selling soda?

"Well, what are polar bears saying about Coke?" challenges Jonathan Cutler, public relations manager at Virgin Cola. "For 100 years Coke and Pepsi have spent billions of dollars on supermodels and sports figures to say nothing. We figured we'd turn the tables and say something. We wanted people to get up [on the Virgin Cola Soapbox] and say something important. Not about the cola but all about themselves."

"People are buying a brand, and our job was to make Virgin a brand," says Court Crandall, creative partner at Ground Zero, who worked on the campaign with partner Kirk Souder, ADs Brian Tortora and Armand Briones and writers Grant Holland and Adam Solomon. "If the products are essentially the same, why not endorse a product that holds up the first amendment?"

The original plan had the admen running around the streets asking people what they thought, but that didn't work very well. "People aren't as interesting as you'd expect them to be," Crandall laments. "We wound up burning a lot of film." The revised method, shot by Moxie Pictures' Todd Phillips, was more of a casting call technique, with people saying what they thought, then later being asked to come in for the shoot if they sounded promising.

The print campaign started with a letter from Virgin chairman Richard Branson to Coke CEO Douglas Ivester asking him to consider an arm-wrestling match, "winner takes all," as opposed to wasting money on competing advertising campaigns. Crandall laughs and says, "It's just your typical juvenile behavior with

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