One Disputed Ad Pulled; a Second One Modified

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CHICAGO ( -- Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo have settled out of court their dispute over Coke’s TV campaign for Powerade Option that PepsiCo said unfairly compared it to Gatorade.
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'False claims' charged
In a suit filed March 20 in U.S. District Court in Chicago, PepsiCo’s Stokely-Van Camp unit charged that the Option commercials makes a “literally false claim” of superiority over Gatorade that it “provides a performance advantage while containing fewer calories.”

The TV and print campaign via independent Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., claimed that Powerade Option with 10 calories for each 8.5-ounce serving “is better” than Gatorade’s 50 calories per serving. The first 15-second spot in a four-spot series broke March 16 during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, showing an Amish “drag” race where one horse-drawn buggy carrying 10 bales of hay speeds past a competing buggy carrying 50 bales of hay.

One ad pulled, one modified
Today’s settlement “follows an agreement by Coca-Cola to terminate the airing of one Powerade Option commercial and modify the language in a second ad to address the concerns expressed in the lawsuit pertaining to carbohydrate calorie content and relative energy benefits of Gatorade and Powerade Option,” said Gatorade spokeswoman P.J. Sinopoli.

She said Coke has agreed to immediately stop airing the Amish drag race commercials as well as a second spot that showed two tennis shoes, one with 50 lace holes and the other with 10. The laces spot will be referred to the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau for an expedited review. NAD earlier recommended that the Powerade Option spot “clearly and conspicuously” disclose that the product doesn’t provide the energy benefits that Gatorade delivers.

“Our primary concern is to ensure that consumers are accurately informed about the benefits of a functional sports drink, and we are satisfied with Powerade Option's decision,” Cindy Alston, VP-equity development and communications for Gatorade, said in a statement.

NCAA buy
Coca-Cola issued its own statement saying that under the settlement, advertising for Powerade Option will continue to run during the NCAA tournament. “As the No. 2 player, we want to set ourselves apart from the category, but we want to compete in the marketplace, not in the courtroom,” said Gloria Garrett, VP-hydration for Coca-Cola North America, in the statement.

“Powerade Option was created and is marketed based on what we’ve heard from consumers -– that there are many occasions when a full-calorie sports drink adds back more calories than people have just burned off. Our advertising will maintain the central theme of the campaign, which is that Powerade Option has fewer calories than Gatorade,” said Ms. Garrett. “We have agreed to modify the commercials to be clearer that Powerade Option has both fewer calories and less carbohydrate energy than Gatorade.”

Voice-over added
A Coca-Cola spokesman said the marketer will add a voice-over to the TV spots that say “in essence, that everyone knows that calories equal carbohydrate energy.” He said there were no discussions about print creative slated to run March 31 in USA Today.

Gatorade’s suit charged that the Coke commercials make a false claim of superiority that it “provides a performance advantage while containing fewer calories.” It argued that the opposite is true because the added calories in Gatorade provide additional energy while the “negligible calories” in Powerade Option “cannot refuel athletes in a similar manner."

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