BOB GARFIELD'S AD REVIEW;ZIMA ZEROS IN ON WOMEN'S DISCONTENT

By Bobgarfield Published on .

Let's start with the name-Zima-which sounds like it could be Serbian for "winter."

As a matter of fact, Zima is Serbian for winter, and therein lies a rare instance where you can define this product for what it is, as opposed to what it isn't.

Until now, the best explanation for the "malt-based alcohol beverage with natural flavor" is that it isn't liquor and it isn't beer. And for nearly a year after its introduction, the inherent mystery provoked tremendous consumer trial.

Coors distributors loved the stuff because, in the midst of a beer price war, it commanded a premium price. And, niche though it was, a niche they had all to themselves.

But after an enormously successful rollout, fed substantially by quirky advertising piquing curiosity about the brand, the demand for the un-beer evaporated.

First trial, in other words, and now tribulation.

One factor may be its very un-beerness, and a cloying sweetness that quickly engenders taste fatigue. History shows that consumers will stray occasionally from their beverage basics, but won't stray for long.

The key to Coors' strategy, therefore, is to cultivate and keep those who simply don't like beer in the first place-which is to say, women. Whether enough women will consistently choose Zima over, say, the house white wine is the question upon which hinges the brand's future.

Enter then a new campaign from Foote, Cone & Belding, San Francisco.

One spot is set in a fancy cocktail lounge, late in the evening, where a young man and a young woman wait for their respective dates to arrive. She tires of waiting however, buys him a Zima and the two wind up departing together.

"Zima," says the tagline. "Change where you're at."

Another spot depicts three women browsing from dweeb to dweeb through a video dating service until the opening of a Zima magically conjures a handsome, natural Mr. Right. And the last is about a woman sitting down at the airport bar because her flight to Minneapolis is delayed. The bartender instantly understands her silent gesture as an order for Zima, which she begins sipping when she hears a P.A. announcement for a flight departing for Paris.

Next thing we see is her empty glass, for this is a lady who is both spontaneous and decisive. Also well- prepared, compared with the many Minnesota-bound travelers who do not carry their passports with them in the event they might be traveling to France on a whim.

But she, too, is changing where she's at, using alcohol and her gold card to escape the ongoing nightmare of being well-heeled and beautiful.

It's silly, but cunning. All of these spots tap a strain of nagging dissatisfaction FCB seems to have divined in young women, much as the bartender divined the flight-delayed woman's order. No stranger to this psychology is FCB, whose brilliant work for Levi's for Women displayed rare empathy with feminine frustrations, resentments and longings.

This work may strike a similar nerve, and more women may indeed try Zima, but all the empathy in the world will not ensure a second try.

With the flavor of a slightly carbonated wine cooler and just a hint of Lemon Pledge, the stuff may get sampled by women all summer and still yield for Coors only another brutal Zima of discontent.

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