|In one commercial for Cola Turka, Chevy Chase walks through Times Square.|
|In another spot, an American family drinks Cola Turka and begins speaking Turkish.
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Hollywood actors often appear in foreign commercials, but the spot featuring Mr. Chase has the unusual twist of promoting a local cola brand, Cola Turka, over its American rivals at a politically charged moment.
Attempts to reach Mr. Chase or his agent for comment were unsuccessful on Friday.
"You are drinking America, you are not drinking a soda," said Serdar Erener, referring to the U.S. cola giants Coke and Pepsi. Mr. Erener is the CEO and creative director of WPP Group's Young & Rubicam, Istanbul, the advertising agency that created the spots.
Mr. Erener said the brand's launch strategy had "nothing to do" with the Iraq war. However, he also said a recent clash between U.S. and Turkish soldiers across the border in Iraq had helped the advertising campaign "touch a nerve" in Turkey.
On July 5, the Chevy Chase spots for Cola Turka broke simultaneously on all of Turkey's TV channels. The day before, U.S. troops in Iraq arrested 11 Turkish soldiers and held them for 60 hours, angering Turks and sparking anti-American marches in Turkey's capital, Ankara.
Major Turkish company
Cola Turka is marketed by Ulker, a major Turkish confectionary and cookie company with nationwide distribution and exports to 78 countries. Last year, the 59-year-old company acquired a local soft-drinks maker and assigned Y&R a lemon-lime soft drink brand called Camlica and, later, the Cola Turka project.
The two spots, filmed in New York, aren't anti-America but turn the idea of cola as an American symbol on its head as New Yorkers who are shown drinking Cola Turka suddenly become Turkish.
Mr. Chase is well-known in Turkey for his bumbling family man character Clark W. Griswold from the National Lampoon Vacation movies. The agency cast him to portray a father perplexed by the weird cultural changes happening around him.
In the one spot, Mr. Chase walks through Times Square as a car full of Turks, wrapped in their national flag to celebrate a soccer victory, drive by. He enters a diner to grab a cup of coffee and a cowboy sitting next to him begins using Turkish words after drinking from a red-and-white can of Cola Turka.
In the next spot, Mr. Chase is seen parking his Griswold-style station wagon at his suburban home, where his wife is preparing a Turkish meal for her parents and the children. At the dinner table everyone sings "Take me out to the ball game" until they take a sip of Cola Turka and break into a Turkish-language 1930s Boy Scout song that is part of Turkey's national identity. At the end of the spot, Mr. Chase sprouts a bushy mustache.
Ulker has not released initial sales figures for Cola Turka and did not return calls. Y&R's Mr. Erener claimed sales have been vigorous.
Goal: 25% of soft drink market
Unlike the new Islamic colas Mecca Cola, Qibla Cola and Zam Zam Cola that have sprung up around Europe and the Middle East to counter Western brands, Ulker aims to be more than a niche brand in Turkey's 7.5 billion liter soft drink market. Ulker has said in statements that its goal is a 25% share of Turkey's youthful, fast-growing soft-drink market, currently dominated by Coke with a 57% share, followed by Pepsi with 27%.
According to local sources, Coke has cut prices by more than 10% since Cola Turka's launch. Coca-Cola did not return calls for comment.