COCA-COLA CARD'S FIRST AD TAKES JAB AT PEPSI STUFF: NOTES EASE OF ENTRY IN $75 MIL PROMO; TV TO FOLLOW

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Coca-Cola Co. has launched its multiphase, $75 million Coca-Cola Card promotion with an edgy ad that takes a jab at archrival Pepsi-Cola Co.

The ad, in April issues of magazines targeted to teens, is from D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, St. Louis, a roster agency for Coca-Cola's sports advertising.

"No points to collect," the ad reads above a picture of the card, "How refreshing."

It alludes to Pepsi's hugely successful Pepsi Stuff promotion offering items with logos and special products obtained by collecting points.

Coca-Cola's promotion requires "No clipping proofs-of-purchase. No punching the card. No stamping. No mailing. No waiting six to eight weeks for junk with our logo on it. No end to what you can score with your Coca-Cola Card," the ad states.

20,000 DISCOUNTS

The Coca-Cola Card features more than 20,000 local discount offers from more than 9,500 partners in the most ambitious localized initiative for the beverage giant to date (AA, Nov. 17). Cardholders will show their cards to the various partners to get the offers; cards are distributed via direct mail, in high schools and colleges, and through bottlers.

`STUFF GOT THEIR ATTENTION'

"It's obvious that Stuff got their attention," a Pepsi spokesman said. Pepsi declined to provide details of its own major summer promotion; Pepsi Stuff has run for two years.

TV commercials to support the Coca-Cola Card will break in mid-April. The national spots, likely to be a pool of four, will have the same edgy feel but won't snipe at Pepsi, said a Coca-Cola spokeswoman.

Coke's card is an evolution of the marketer's 1997 summer tie-in with MasterCard International, an effort that some bottlers found lacking.

MasterCard remains a partner in the program, linking to the second phase that starts in May with distribution of more than 18 million ATM cash cards bearing the Coca-Cola and MasterCard logos, with values of $20, $40 and $100. The cards will be seeded in specially marked packages of Coca-Cola, caffeine-free Coca-Cola, Diet Coke and caffeine-free Diet Coke.

Consumers also can win cash cards via instant-win messages on bottle caps and fountain cups.

BUILDING BRAND IDENTITY

"They have to continue to do a great job of maintaining and building on brand identity," said Bryan Elliott, a restaurant and beverage analyst who tracks Coca-Cola for Robinson-Humphrey Co. He noted the new promotion should help accomplish that.

"They can go toe to toe with anybody," he said.

According to Beverage Digest, Coca-Cola Co.'s volume last year was up 5.1% from 1996, while Pepsi-Cola Co's volume was up 3%. Coca-Cola held a 43.9% share of the estimated $54.7 billion carbonated soft-drink market; Pepsi had a 30.9% share.

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