Coke strategy shift bad news for Big 3

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Coca-Cola Co.'s stepped-up focus on converting youth to Coca-Cola Classic points toward millions of its ad dollars shifting from the Big Three TV networks to younger-oriented media outlets.

The soft-drink giant's $250 million "Coca-Cola ... Real" campaign breaks today, and Chris Lowe, chief marketing officer for North America, said Coca-Cola is set to segment the market as never before. While broadcast's mass reach is desirable, the company will adjust its media buys to hit its target, he said.

"We really are going to be looking at ... more carefully targeted media than in the past," he said. The company said its ads will appear on late-night and daytime TV, network TV and cable. But Mr. Lowe stressed the likes of broadcast TV networks that appeal to youth, such as AOL Time Warner's WB, along with cable nets such as Viacom's MTV will be key in promoting Coca-Cola's most important brand.

Classic represents about 45% of Coca-Cola corporate volume, and the brand receives about one-third of the company's measured media spending. Traditionally, cable has received about one-third to one-fifth of what was spent on network TV. Last year, Classic received $155 million in measured media, with network TV the largest recipient, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.

"Real" breaks on ABC's American Music Awards with three spots: a 90-second with a duet between R&B singer Mya and hip-hop star Common; a 30-second anti-Cindy Crawford spot with actress Penelope Cruz belching after chugging a Coke; and another 30-second with Courtney Cox Arquette torn between her love for the last Coke in her fridge and her concern for husband, David Arquette, who also wants the drink.

WPP Group's Berlin Cameron/Red Cell, New York, handled most of the campaign.

targeting kids

Of the 16 or 17 spots supporting Classic, about 10 have been shot, with at least four aimed directly at kids and three at minorities.

Ads also will run on shows like WB's "Everwood" and "Smallville," Fox's "Bernie Mac" and "That `70s Show" as well as ABC's "The Bachelorette." Cable stations include Univision, Viacom's MTV, Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN, NBC's Telemundo. Print executions are slated for Primedia's Seventeen, Miller Publishing's Vibe, Wenner Media's Rolling Stone and Time Inc.'s Teen People.

"Typically the messenger is not as important [as] a specific media [spending] level. Here you want to make sure the right insight is put in front of the right target in the right context," Mr. Lowe said.

`looking inward'

"Real" is vital to the sagging brand, which has been without an ad campaign since Sept. 11, 2001, when "Life Tastes Good" was pulled domestically. "Real," on the other hand, sprung from Americans' collective hangover from the go-go 1980s and `90s, anxiety over terrorism and fatigue over corporate-accounting scandals, Mr. Lowe said.

"There was a trend of people looking inward for what was real, important, genuine, authentic in our lives and relationships with others," he said, noting that more than just a slew of TV spots was needed to convey what "Real" is.

As such, a long-term "Real" endeavor will unite Internet, print, graphics, cinema efforts, radio and music, sponsorships and sports. Mr. Lowe declined to compare "Real" spending to previous campaigns.

Publicis Groupe's Lapiz, Chicago, is handling two Latino ads that break in January, while Publicis-backed Burrell, Chicago, is handling the three African-American ads to break in February. Interpublic Group of Cos.' Momentum, St. Louis, shot an NCAA spot.

Colas are the oldest and largest segment of the carbonated soft drinks, though they have been seeing share eroded by fruit drinks, energy and sports drinks and waters.

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