Diet Coke works up new theme

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Coca-Cola Co. will break an estimated $40 million ad campaign by the end of May for Diet Coke, scrapping the "Just for the taste of it" theme line it resurrected just 18 months ago.

The effort, initially consisting of three 30-second commercials, will not reference taste. Instead, the ads are said to use tongue-in-cheek humor to show how drinking Diet Coke makes people attractive and appealing. Lowe & Partners/SMS, New York, is the agency.


The new theme line couldn't be determined, but is said to include the word "drink." The overall focus of the ads will be a look good/feel good/be sexy message timed to coincide with the start of the summer season, according to executives familiar with the campaign.

The positioning would set Diet Coke apart from Pepsi-Cola Co.'s Diet Pepsi, which last month broke a new campaign themed "This is diet?" TV spot from BBDO Worldwide, New York, feature characters distracted from their problems by the taste of Diet Pepsi.

Diet Coke's "Just for the taste of it" was created by then-agency Lintas in 1982, with taste the core equity of the brand since its inception. It was replaced by Lintas' "Taste it all," killed within weeks of its January 1993 debut; and again in January 1994 by "This is refreshment," Lowe's first effort after winning the brand from its sister Interpublic Group of Cos. agency.

Lowe revived "Just for the taste of it" after "This is refreshment" fell flat.

The 1997 marketing plan may call for additional spots throughout the year, which could boost spending beyond the anticipated $40 million mark for this particular campaign, part of the $75 million typically spent annually on the brand.

Diet Coke has played up sex appeal before in individual ads, such as 1994's Lucky Vanous commercial, in which secretaries go ga-ga over a muscle-bound construction worker. Earlier this year, a second beefcake commercial, from Leo Burnett Co., Milan, ran in the U.S.


Lowe, according to executives, has been under pressure from Diet Coke to create powerful new advertising. During last summer's Olympics, many of the Diet Coke spots that aired were created in-house, rather than by Lowe.

Diet Coke remains the No. 3 soft drink brand overall, behind No. 1 Coca-Cola and No. 2 Pepsi-Cola. Diet Coke's market share for 1996 was 8.7%, down from 8.8% in 1995, according to Beverage Digest and Maxwell Consumer Report.

All diet soft drinks in the top 10 ranking lost share or were flat last year.

Contributing: Judann Pollack.

Copyright May 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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