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Will she or won't she? The question started to loom large when the nameless "she" interrupted her dinner party to borrow some coffee from the neighborly Michael.

But by the time it was answered (sealed with a kiss during a Parisian rendezvous), the campaign's popularity loomed larger than the question. Taster's Choice rose from 16th place in 1990 on Video Storyboard's ranking to eighth place in 1993, the year of the revealing "Kiss."

Such are the origins of the only serial TV campaign ever to score big with viewers. At its peak, it captured the essence of soap operas with double the suspense-not only what will happen next but also when, because only two or three episodes appeared, at random, during the year.

But the "Kiss," which initiated their affair, stalled the love affair with the audience. Even surprise visits from a son and an ex-husband didn't bring back the viewers. Episode 12 was not even on the charts, raising questions about the very future of the campaign's coffee-obsessive sophisticates.

Irwin Warren, the McCann-Erickson creative, has nurtured the Taster's Choice relationship ever since the U.S. campaign was adapted from an English concept.

"The problem," he insists, "is not in the lack of interest in the plot as much as with the media budget, which has been drastically reduced. People don't even get a chance to see what is new between the couple."

He has high hopes on the current episode, which started on July 1. "She" again finds herself on the horns of another relationship dilemma-ex-husband or Michael. "Which one?" is Warren's answer to "Will she?" The real issue is will this make the viewers care, again?

Dave Vadehra is president of Video Storyboard Tests.

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