Importers tweak Corona Extra ads aimed East, West

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The importers of the U.S.' leading imported beer, Corona Extra, are changing their "lattitude" in a new $25 million-plus ad campaign -- its highest spending level ever.

Gambrinus Co. and Barton Beers, which both import the brew, are dropping the "Change your lattitude" tagline but will take slightly different creative approaches in new ads. Barton is breaking a two-spot campaign on prime-time and late-night TV in late March in preparation for the summer drinking and barbecue season.

END WITH A TWIST

The Barton ads look similar to past Corona efforts with sumptuous beach scenes and bottles of beer, but end with a twist. One, to run in the western half of the U.S., opens with a table leg wobbling and the sound of a ringing cell phone. It then shows a man putting the unanswered phone under the leg to stabilize the table, and closes with a man and woman gazing at the ocean, Coronas on the table between them.

The spot favored by Gambrinus shows someone flicking a slice of lime between two Corona bottles in the fashion of a field goal. All the commercials were created by the Richards Group, Dallas, and Lois/USA's Fogarty Klein 312, Chicago. They mark the last work Fogarty did on Corona before parent Lois went bankrupt in the fall and closed its shops. Cramer-Krasselt, Chicago, replaced Lois in October but has not yet produced work for Corona.

SALES RISE IN DOUBLE DIGITS

Last year , the brand saw sales rise 20% over 1998 -- the fifth consecutive year of double-digit growth for Corona Extra. This year, less emphasis will be directed at Corona Light, which will get a packaging overhaul to make the white-letter label more like the flagship brew and easier to read.

Corona, the No. 10 beer in the U.S., sold 4.9 million barrels in 1999 and commands about 2% of the total beer market, according to Beer Marketer's Insights.

The $25 million spent advertising Corona this year will be divided between Gambrinus, which imports the brew in the eastern U.S., and Barton, importer in the western U.S. That figure doesn't include local promotional ads or Hispanic media buys. Last year, Corona was supported with about $19 million, up from $12 million in 1998, according to a Barton spokesman. The importers will also spend $2 million on Hispanic marketing.

In addition to advertising, Barton and Gambrinus will, for the first time, sponsor a national concert tour by Hispanic balladeer Luis Miguel, while continuing to sponsor Jimmy Buffett concerts.

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