Launch Is Its Most Expensive Advertising Promotion Since Diet Coke

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NEW YORK ( -- Coca-Cola Co.'s June launch of the low-carb C2 cola will be the marketer's most expensive advertising push since it rolled out Diet Coke 22 years ago.
The logo of Coke's new C2 cola.
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Rival Pepsi-Cola Co. plans to launch a competing product, Pepsi Edge, in the middle of June.

Edge and C2 are sodas whose physical qualities position them halfway between a full-sugared cola and a no-sugar diet cola. The product's primary selling point is a taste much closer to that of traditional cola, whereas diet colas have an artificially sweetened taste that most drinkers find significantly different from either Coke Classic or Pepsi.

Rolling Stones
Coke went public this morning with its new half-and-half cola, unveiling C2 in Los Angeles during a presentation featuring Paula Abdul and Ryan Seacrest of American Idol. C2's first ad, featuring the Rolling Stones song "You Can't Always Get What You Want," will air tomorrow on the finale of American Idol on Fox. (Coca-Cola is a major sponsor of the hit reality TV show.)

A roadblock of spots will begin running on 30 networks June 13 at 9 p.m., and a second ad with Queen's "I Want to Break Free" will air in July. Overall, the integrated marketing campaign will include TV, radio, outdoor, cinema and Internet advertising. Sampling teams will hit the streets this week in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and New York. WPP Group's Berlin Cameron/Red Cell, New York, did the ads, which carry the tagline "Half the carbs. Half the cals. All the great taste."

Katie Bayne, senior vice president for integrated marketing for Coca-Cola North America, said the C2 launch "could be the biggest thing we've done in the last 20 years," but she declined to provide financial details of the plan. She would only say that the campaign would surpass spending by Apple Computer for its Apple iPod and Gillette Co. for the Mach3 razor.

$46 million razor campaign
The iPod received $38 million in measured media last year and $4 million in 2002, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. The Mach3 razor received $46 million in 2003.

Diet Coke received an estimated $40 million on its launch in 1982 and has become the leading diet soft drink and the No. 3 soft drink overall. Adjusted for inflation, the $40 million launch outlay would equate to $76.2 million today.

"We're responding again to what our consumers are telling us they want," Don Knauss, president and chief operating officer of Coca-Cola North America, said in a statement. "Today's consumers are looking for choices that fit their lifestyles. They want to keep enjoying the special cola taste that Coca-Cola delivers but with the option of a lower-carb, lower-cal soft drink. Coca-Cola C2 gives that freedom of choice."

Halfwayers demographic
Beverage industry observers note that Coke and Pepsi have determined that growing numbers of consumers regularly switch between diet and regular cola. Pepsi claims this half-and-half market consists of as many as 60 million people.

Coke's C2 will be available in 20-ounce bottles and 12-ounce cans, including 8- and 18-can multi-packs in early June. Soon thereafter, it will be offered at fountains. The company has been working for over a year on C2, which is aimed at 20- to 40-year-old consumers, Ms. Bayne said.

Coca-Cola Co., the world's largest soft drink company, spent $261 million on measured media last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

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