NEW PEPSI-COLA SPOTS A BIG HIT WITH BOTTLERS: MT. DEW EFFORT SHOULD HELP SOFT DRINK OVERTAKE DIET COKE IN U.S.

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Last year, when Pepsi-Cola Co. executives unveiled a fresh ad campaign to their bottlers, the commercials got bad reviews. This year, they drew applause.

Bottlers found last year's ads too edgy and too narrowly focused on "Generation Next." This year, bottlers were bursting with enthusiasm, humming the soft-drink company's new jingle and theme line: "The joy of cola."

The tune is part of an upbeat, estimated $85 million campaign for the brand. The work, from longtime agency BBDO Worldwide, New York, was previewed for bottlers last Thursday.

'COULDN'T HAVE ASKED FOR MORE'

"It's been years since [Pepsi management] has seen the kind of response they had last night," one attendee said Friday. "They've finally gotten their finger right on the heartbeat. You couldn't have asked for more."

The real test, of course, will be how consumers respond to the ads, and how they affect sales of the nation's No. 2 soft-drink brand.

Industry observers and Pepsi-Cola insiders are convinced that, with the new ads and a marketing link to the movie "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace," the company is poised for a strong year. There are also high hopes for Mountain Dew, the brand many see as the jewel in Pepsi's crown.

New Mountain Dew commercials launch in the next few weeks, including one featuring rap star Busta Rhymes, also from BBDO.

MT. DEW UP 9.9%

According to Beverage Digest, an industry newsletter, Mountain Dew's sales shot up 9.9% in 1998. At the bottlers meeting, officials indicated Mountain Dew stands to leapfrog over Diet Coke this year to become the third-largest brand in the $55 billion U.S. soft-drink market, said the attendee.

The new Pepsi work will debut March 21 on ABC's telecast of the Academy Awards. The spots bring back Hallie Eisenberg, the 6-year-old girl who starred in one ad last summer. She's used as a medium for the voices of Aretha Franklin, Isaac Hayes and Marlon Brando.

In the Aretha spot, she struts across a diner counter belting out the new jingle. The spot ends with a cameo of the pop diva saying, "You go, girl." Ms. Eisenberg was at the bottlers' meeting. So was the Boy's Choir of Harlem, which performed the song for attendees.

The campaign will include com-mercials from Pepsi's African-American and Hispanic agencies, UniWorld Group, New York, and Del Rivero Messianu Advertising, Coral Gables, Fla., respectively.

"We've got a song we hope is going to catch on and get under people's skin," said Dawn Hudson, senior VP-strategy and marketing for Pepsi-Cola's North American division.

Ms. Hudson was put in charge of Pepsi's cola brands in November, just two weeks before BBDO presented its ideas for the campaign. The idea for using the jingle stood out, she said. "It's positive and upbeat." The work replaces the 2-year-old campaign themed, "Generation Next."

The "Star Wars" commercials, breaking in mid-May, will also carry the "joy of cola" theme, Ms. Hudson said.

"This is going to be Pepsi's year," said Caroline Levy, an analyst with Schroder & Co. "The Academy Awards link plays well to their 'Star Wars' tie in. Entertainment is just a huge part of people's lives now."

The new commercials for Pepsi come as Coca-Cola is hearing ideas from several roster agencies, including McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, for its 6-year-old "Always" campaign for Coca-Cola Classic (AA, Feb. 8).

Coca-Cola Classic outpaced Pepsi-Cola last year; sales grew 3% vs. Pepsi-Cola's 0.3%. Both cola marketers have new executive teams in place. The Pepsi work is the first campaign since Phil Marineau, a veteran of Gatorade marketer Quaker Oats Co., joined Pepsi-Cola North America in late 1997 as president-CEO.

Many are waiting to see how Coca-Cola's new marketing chief, Charles Frenette, will put his stamp on the Atlanta beverage giant's premiere product commercials from Pepsi's African-American and Hispanic agencies, UniWorld Group, New York, and Del Rivero Messianu Advertising, Coral Gables, Fla., respectively.

"We've got a song we hope is going to catch on and get under people's skin," said Dawn Hudson, senior VP-strategy and marketing for Pepsi-Cola's North American division.

Ms. Hudson was put in charge of Pepsi's cola brands in November, just two weeks before BBDO presented its ideas for the campaign. The idea for using the jingle stood out, she said.

'POSITIVE AND UPBEAT'

"It's positive and upbeat," Ms. Hudson said. The work replaces the 2-year-old campaign themed "Generation Next."

The "Star Wars" commercials, breaking in mid-May, will also carry the "Joy of cola" theme, Ms. Hudson said.

"This is going to be Pepsi's year," said Caroline Levy, an analyst with Schroder & Co. "The Academy Awards link plays well to their 'Star Wars' tie-in. Entertainment is just a huge part of people's lives now."

The new commercials for Pepsi come as Coca-Cola is hearing ideas from several roster agencies, including McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, for its 6-year-old "Always" campaign for Coca-Cola Classic (AA, Feb. 8).

Coca-Cola Classic outpaced Pepsi-Cola last year; sales grew 3% vs. Pepsi-Cola's 0.3%. Both cola marketers have new executive teams in place. The Pepsi work is the first campaign since Phil Marineau, a veteran of Gatorade marketer Quaker Oats Co., joined Pepsi-Cola North America in late 1997 as president-CEO.

Many are waiting to see how Coca-Cola's new marketing chief, Charles Frenette,

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