Coca-Cola Light employs local edge

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A trio of sexy TV spots for Coca-Cola Co.'s Coca-Cola Light demonstrates how the global beverage goliath is moving away from global ad campaigns to more locally relevant executions supporting global brand strategies.

The campaign, now running in Latin America and northern Europe, is an example of how global brand stewardship has shifted to local control under CEO Doug Daft's "think local, act local" mandate. Prior to Mr. Daft's regime the company ran global campaigns and local divisions never had creative control, said one system executive.

The Coke Light spots, created by Berlin, Cameron & Partners, New York, position the soft drink as an object of desire -- rather than as a way to feel good about yourself, as Diet Coke is positioned in the U.S. Global spending on the brand is estimated at $100 million. Berlin added the brand to its Coca-Cola roster along with Bonaqua and Dasani waters; Diet Sprite, Fresca and Mello Yello soft drinks; and Nestea Cool iced tea.

TWO KINDS OF DESIRE

"There's a desire for the product that is juxtaposed against the desire men and women have for each other," said Ed Klein, global brand director for Diet Coke and Coca-Cola Light. The brand is sold as Diet Coke in North America, the U.K., and the Middle and Far East, and as Light elsewhere.

The campaign purposely omits the fact that the drink has no calories, which might be construed as indicating a lack of flavor or robustness among the core audience of young adults. Rather, it emphasizes the notion of talking to people who look their best and take care of themselves, said Mr. Klein. That desire positioning plays off the brand's research showing that "Coca-Cola Light is seen in other parts of world as a vibrant brand that exudes a sexy confidence," he said. "The idea of desire is you'll like the taste."

That's not to say the brand's skimpy calorie count isn't relevant. In certain parts of world there is a larger move toward lighter beverages such as water and low-calorie juices. "The overall trend toward health and well-being on a worldwide basis, supporting lighter beverages and lower calorie consumption, is true in a lot of categories," said Mr. Klein.

One spot for Spanish-speaking countries shows a man and woman at an open air cafe. The man eyes another woman standing behind his date who flirtatiously looks back as she uses her mobile phone. While the man's date notices his distraction and turns around to look, he notices his empty glass and drinks from hers. When the date turns back and realizes he just finished her drink, she slaps him, leaving the viewer to wonder which of the two offenses was worse. The spot closes with a shot of Coca-Cola Light and the tagline in Spanish, "Deseo. [Enjoy] Te va a encantar," leveraging off the final phrase's double meaning: "You'll be enchanted" and "You're going to love it."

"We think there is a core essence to what Coca-Cola Light and Diet Coke is all about," said Mr. Klein. "How you express that will vary depending on the culture."

How to make the feel good/look good positioning relevant in the U.S. has been more of a challenge for Diet Coke. Over the years, campaigns vacillated on themes, from taste ("Just for the taste of it") to health ("You are what you drink") to self-actualization ("Live your life").

CELEBRITY SPOTS DELAYED

It has been more than a year since the last campaign from Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., marked the transfer of the brand account from Lowe Lintas & Partners Worldwide, New York. New celebrity-focused spots from Wieden have been delayed due to the commercial actors strike, a spokeswoman said.

Media decisions are also affected by the organizational shift, with local countries calling the shots.

One common brand attribute is the brand's ability to quench thirst. To reinforce the refreshment of the beverage, each spot includes a number of sensory cues. For example, actors tip their heads back to finish off the fizzy drink and the camera closes in on the ice falling in the glass onto the drinkers' lips.

The Coca-Cola Light business is growing at just under 10% annually by volume. Diet Coke's volume share in the U.S. for the first half of 2000 is up 0.2% to 7.1%, according to ACNielsen Corp., compared to Coke Classic's 15.9%, up 0.1%.

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