Coke Card promotion set for '98

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Coca-Cola Co. is readying one of its most elaborate consumer promotions ever: the Coca-Cola Card.

The card, good for discounts at myriad local retailers, is expected to debut next spring or early summer, and is clearly intended as a counter to the success of rival Pepsi-Cola Co.'s popular Pepsi Stuff promotion.

The effort will follow Coca-Cola's summer tie-in last year with MasterCard International, an effort that disappointed some distributors with its lack of buzz in the marketplace.


The coming card promotion already has delivered one surprise: Coca-Cola has turned to D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, St. Louis, to create the advertising for the multimillion-dollar campaign that will support it.

While DMB&B has done some domestic Coca-Cola work--most notably two TV spots for Coca-Cola Classic last year that targeted blue-collar families--it's not a primary creative agency for the soft-drink giant. In the U.S., DMB&B is used by Coca-Cola mainly for its media planning plus local efforts and Nascar racing.

DMB&B executives declined to comment on the new card promotion; a Coca-Cola spokeswoman declined comment.

"I think this is one of our strongest programs ever," said one distributor. "We're mainly going after kids, the junior and senior high school crowd."

In fact, the cards will be distributed through high schools, distributors noted.


Many of the offers, expected to last throughout the summer, will be free Coca-Cola drink products at venues like movie theaters and fast-food outlets if consumers use the card, which will be UPC encoded.

"We're approaching one pizza franchisee and asking him to offer a free 20-ounce drink with a pizza purchase," said another distributor.

A third distributor said the biggest problem is getting retailers to give discounts on their own products or services.

"It's no problem to ask them to give away Coke products," he said. "But it's more difficult to talk them into something like giving a card user $10 off if they spend $50 in the retailer's shop."

The local nature of the program is a "logistical nightmare," said one Coca-Cola insider.


Consumers will find card applications on 12-packs; Coca-Cola has to make sure that they get the right local card back, or tell consumers where in the local market to pick up a card.

"A gas station or convenience store would be a good card distribution point," said one distributor.

Accompanying the card will be a booklet with up to 50 or so local retailers where the card can be used for discounts and free merchandise or products.

Coca-Cola is asking each distributor to highlight four categories of retailers: entertainment, clothes, sports and meeting/gathering spots, such as a fast-food eateries or convenience stores. Four local retailers, preferably one in each of these categories, will likely be highlighted by being listed on the card itself.

Contributing: Laura Petrecca.

Copyright November 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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