Strike leaves 7UP bottlers high and dry on new spots

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When Dr Pepper/Seven Up bottlers convene in Hawaii Oct. 1, for their annual meeting, they won't be treated to a traditional highlight -- new advertising for 7UP. That's because the brand's spokesman, comedian Orlando Jones, is honoring the commercial actors strike.

"We're not going to be able to show any commercials at the bottler meeting for our 2001 7UP campaign," a company spokesman said. "We will continue running current spots until we can film new ones." He added that the nine existing spots for 2000 that broke in November 1999 haven't shown any audience fatigue, according to ongoing tests.

The Uncola ad omission illustrates the hardship put on marketers by the actors strike. Although the "Make 7UP yours" spots with Mr. Jones have drawn criticism, they've also spurred sales. For the 52 weeks ended July 16, 7UP's volume climbed 6.9%, according to Information Resources Inc., more than double the 3.1% growth of the overall carbonated soft-drink category.

`VICTIMS OF CIRCUMSTANCE'

Although new commercial concepts have been presented to the bottlers association and bottler marketing committee already, there isn't anything to screen. That puts a damper on an event that normally gives a big emotional lift to the convention.

"We are just victims of circumstance," the spokesman said of both Dr Pepper/Seven Up and Mr. Jones, who ironically plays a strikebreaker in Warner Bros. Pictures' current film "The Replacements."

"We're not going to force the issue and we'll wait until the strike is over."

The company will still have some excitement to share with bottlers for 7UP, however. It will unveil new packaging graphics for the brand as the final major element of a repositioning that began in 1997. After Cadbury purchased Dr Pepper/

Seven Up in 1995, the company took steps to revitalize the lemon-lime drink, which had been neglected for many years and had lost market share steadily through the 1990s to Coca-Cola Co.'s Sprite and PepsiCo's Mountain Dew.

Bottlers will, however, see spots for the Dr Pepper brand. Using non-union talent, Y&R Advertising, New York, which handles Dr Pepper, Schweppes and 7UP, filmed new TV spots two weeks ago in a variety of Manhattan locations, one following a group of girls in an apartment who are getting ready for a night on the town, another outside the Spa Club on 13th Street.

The Dr Pepper/Seven Up spokesman declined to confirm details of the shoot, saying all the new beverage spots will remain under wraps until the bottlers meeting.

The marketer also wouldn't disclose whether there will be new commercials shown at the meeting for its Sunkist orange soda, A&W root beer, Canada Dry ginger ale and tonic, Hawaiian Punch, and Squirt lemon-lime soda, all handled by FCB Worldwide, Chicago.

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