MUG POURS IRREVERENT HUMOR FOR OLDER TARGET: ROOT BEER ADS TAKE THEIR BOW ON 'SIMPSONS'

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Call it the joy of root beer.

Pepsi-Cola Co.'s new Mug root beer campaign is aiming slightly older than its former teen target with a new campaign that shows individuals who are delightedly energized after imbibing.

"We've been very happy with our advertising with Mug historically," said Craig Coffey, director of marketing at Pepsi-Cola Co. "Part of this has been a learning process to drill deeper with consumers to see what motivates them to buy a root beer and want to buy Mug."

A pregnant, twentysomething woman and her husband star in the first spot in the estimated $6 million effort from BBDO Worldwide, New York. Gone is the theme "Mug root beer. The foam goes straight to your brain," in favor of "I love my Mug."

'SIMPSONS' DEBUT

The spot made its debut last night on Fox's "The Simpsons." A second 30-second spot will break later this month. The two will run on network TV and cable through the summer.

The former work for the growing brand was a "little broader, with a dumber sense of humor aimed at kids," said Michael Patti, BBDO vice chairman-executive creative director.

The new effort still uses humor. The spot begins syrupy sweet, showing the very pregnant wife arranging flowers. Then the baby kicks. As she shares the precious moment with her spouse, she pours herself a mug of Mug, which voice-over points out is caffeine-free. Then the baby really starts kicking; cut to a sonogram of the delighted baby playing drums.

The next spot will show a stern-looking mounted policeman surveying his domain. When he takes a sip of Mug, his horse is inspired to do a samba dance, Mr. Patti said.

ROOT BEER A $1.65 BIL BUSINESS

The campaign comes as Mug and rival Barq's, the No. 1 brand from Coca-Cola Co., enjoyed strong sales growth of 12% last year, according to consultancy Beverage Marketing Corp. In 1998, A&W ranked No. 3, after Mug, in the estimated $1.65 billion segment of the $55 billion U.S. soft-drink business, which included fountain sales, according to Maxwell Consumer Report.

Mug also has updated graphics that play up the fact it's caffeine-free. "It makes sense to play up the caffeine-free attribute of the product," said Gary Hemphill, VP-information services at Beverage Marketing.

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