DR PEPPER PUMPS SPENDING AS DIET VERSION TOUTS TASTE: DIET GETS $30 MIL EFFORT TO FOLLOW PEPSI ONE DEBUT

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Dr Pepper/Seven Up begins a $30 million push next year for its strong-performing Diet Dr Pepper.

The effort is part of a 12% overall spending increase on the Dr Pepper line, a jump to $92.5 million in 1999.

The decision to increase media spending is partly a reaction to the arrival of Pepsi-Cola Co.'s new diet entry. Pepsi is launching 1-calorie Pepsi One with a $100 million push (see story on Page 16).

SALES UP 6%

Sales of Dr Pepper, currently the sixth-largest soft drink in the country, grew 6% this year, the company said. That's twice the growth rate of the $54 billion industry as a whole.

In January, Dr Pepper will trumpet its diet brand as the only soft drink that "tastes like regular." Three 30-second commercials are coming from longtime agency Y&R Advertising, New York.

One spot, called "Absolution," shows a priest solemnly telling a Diet Dr Pepper bottle that it is living a lie by being "clothed" in diet packaging while tasting more like regular Dr Pepper. Another, "Confirmation," shows a lone can of Diet Dr Pepper being grilled in a congressional hearing room, with a congressman accusing the brand of lying.

The ads are tagged "Diet Dr Pepper tastes more like regular Dr Pepper. That's our story and we're sticking to it." That's the product's first tag in 8 years.

The commercials won applause from Dr Pepper bottlers who were given a preview Oct. 2 in Orlando at their annual convention.

In addition to network TV support, a major direct marketing campaign is slated for March.

REGULAR KEEPS HUMOR

Meanwhile, regular Dr Pepper will be backed by four promos next year and a 7% increase in couponing, plus cross promotions with TV shows such as Fox's "Beverly Hills 90210" and "Party of Five." There also will be tie-ins with sports events during the second half.

The company is seeking "a major entertainment property" to tie in with during November and December 1999, said Cindi Clark, senior VP-marketing.

Four new :30s for regular Dr Pepper will build on the current "fun and humorous brand personality," said John Clarke, chief advertising officer for Dr Pepper/Seven Up.

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