Pepsi challenge taste test comes to Australia

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SYDNEY -- The Coca-Cola Co. will be serving an unlikely new customer this Australian summer when arch-rival Pepsi buys 100,000 cases of the soft drink.

Pepsi is launching its most aggressive assault yet on Australia's $2 billion cola market. The 100,000 cases of Coca-Cola will form an integral part of Pepsi's $14 million 1998 summer marketing offensive to be unleashed in Australia on September 5.

Called Pepsi Challenge, the marketing program includes a giant taste-testing campaign targeting 600,000 teenagers across the country. Special Pepsi Challenge booths will be set up at beaches, rock concerts, sporting matches and any other event or venue where teenagers congregate during summer months. Served in unmarked drinking containers, teenagers will be challenged to take the taste test before being asked to nominate which was their favorite cola. Only after they nominate which was their favorite cola will the chosen brand be identified.

"We will be supporting the competition to their detriment,'' says Pepsi Cola Bottlers Australia Marketing Director Mr. Ian Tetro. "This is a way for us to earn credibility among the tough youth market. It's something a market leader can't do but an underdog can."

More than 70% of Australia's $4 billion worth of annual soft drink sales are generated during the country's summer, between October and March. Pepsi plans to invest 80% of its $10 million marketing budget during this period. Cola is by far the most popular soft drink flavor in Australia, accounting for more than half the total soft drink market.

Mr. Tetro says Pepsi will launch its new ad campaign, created by Sydney ad agency Clemenger BBDO on Sunday night, one month earlier than normal, in an attempt to take the marketing lead over Coke.

According to market research company AC Nielsen, Coca-Cola and Diet Coke accounted for 44.6% of total Australian soft drink sales during 1997. Pepsi, Diet Pepsi and Pepsi Max account for just 6.9% of total soft drink sales.

Copyright September 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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