New Diet Pepsi Spot Is Cute and Quirky

But First DDB Work Muddles Ultimate Message

By Published on .

Well, it certainly looks different.

The first TV advertising from Diet Pepsi since DDB, New York, grabbed the business from Omnivore sibling BBDO looks nothing like what preceded it for about the last 40 years. There are no celebrities to speak of. No pop music. No glitzy productions.
Title: Little More
Marketer: PepsiCo
Agency: DDB, New York
The new Diet Pepsi campaign's weakness is also its strength. | ALSO: Comment on this review in the 'Your Opinion' box below.

In fact, these droll spots are more like ditzy productions -- eccentric, low-tech, tongue-in-cheek and right on the verge of being self-mocking.

That is the campaign's weakness -- and also its strength.

Consider this 30-second spot, in which a wry voice-over -- atop crude, hand-lettered onscreen type -- "boasts" about new consumer-preference results: "In a recent survey, diet-cola drinkers were asked, 'Which diet cola has more cola taste?' Fifty-six percent picked Diet Pepsi over Diet Coke. That means everybody. OK, almost everybody. Mostly everybody. Fine, a little more than half of everybody. Diet Pepsi, the choice of a little more than half of everybody."

The candor and self-effacement of this copy is quite charming, reminiscent of AdReview's favorite slogan ever, when Clamato briefly promoted itself as "99% Clam Free." This, of course, was an implicit admission that the brand's marketing problem is intentionally contaminating perfectly good tomato juice with clam flavor. (Next: fresh-squeezed Tropicanchovy!)

So, yes, it's refreshing that the brand is having a good laugh at its own expense. After all, none of us was born yesterday. We must assume the underlying survey was constructed in a way most advantageous to PepsiCo, and the results edited in a way most advantageous. For instance, we don't know what else was asked -- including, perhaps, "Which do you prefer?" -- that may have documented less Pepsi-centric findings. (AdReview, for one, thinks Diet Pepsi has more cola taste but prefers Diet Coke because it's less sweet.) Furthermore, the survey was conspicuously not a Pepsi challenge, based on actual taste tests. It's just a poll result, with who knows what margin of error.

Hence the arch tone. Like Clamato before it, Diet Pepsi seems to implicitly acknowledge that its selling premise is a bit thin, in this case falling somewhere between hard data and puffery. How ingenious, then, to inflate it and deflate it at the same time.

But, as we observed earlier, this strength is also a weakness, because this spot does not constitute a whole campaign. It is but one of at least six TV spots so far -- and everything else, while still a bit goofy, seems to take the 56% claim more or less at face value. In one spot -- spoofing ad cliches -- they actually sing it. In another, the information is presented as reason to drink lots of Diet Pepsi.

"Things we've learned that we hardly ever use: The theory of relativity. How to tie a barrel knot. Pig Latin. The periodic table of elements. The Macarena. How about something we can actually use? Like the fact that a recent test shows that Diet Pepsi has more cola taste than Diet Coke. That's information you can use two or three times a day."

The tagline, here and everywhere else: "More cola taste."

So, the question is, which is it? "More cola taste?" Or "Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. Maybe more cola taste and then again maybe not. Just give us a try because we're adorable"?

Maybe this campaign manages to split the difference, succeeding on likability even as it undercuts its own positioning. We're skeptical. "More cola taste" is a perfectly functional tagline, unless mostly everybody doesn't think it's true.
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