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Coke Inserts Unusual Twists in Ads

August 10, 2000

NEW YORK (AP) _ Coca-Cola Inc. is packing an unexpected twist in the new commercials it will start serving up next week to whet consumer’s thirst for its flagship soft drink brand.

The ads for Coca-Cola Classic start out with emotion-laden scenes of people gathering for a family portrait, graduates pledging eternal friendship, a soldier coming home to the farm and a family greeting an exchange student at the train station.

It seems like the familiar approach to pitching the world’s best-selling soft drink.

But the tone dramatically changes when a key figure in each ad learns there isn’t any Coca-Cola available to mark the moment.

``I’m 101 and this will probably be the last time we get together,″ says the disappointed family matriarch as she turns her electric wheelchair around and storms away from her kin assembled in the backyard for the portrait in one ad.

The graduates start squabbling and the soldier and exchange student stomp off in the other ads which each end with the words ``Next Time ... Enjoy″ appearing over the distinctive backdrop of a Coke bottle.

The ads were created for Atlanta-based Coca-Cola by the agency Cliff Freeman & Partners, known for its edgy style of commercials that included the famous ``Where’s the Beef″ ads for Wendy’s hamburgers in the mid-1980s.

The New York-based agency has created ads for Cherry Coke and has worked on Coca-Cola’s Fanta account in Europe, but this is its first work for Coca-Cola Classic.

The ads were described as an extension of the ``Enjoy″ campaign that Coca-Cola launched globally in January. These ads were made expressly for the U.S. market.

Thirty-second versions of the portrait and graduates ads start running Monday on the major broadcast and cable TV networks. Sixty-second versions of the soldier and the exchange student ads debut Sept. 15 on the Summer Olympics telecast.

Darryl Cobbin, an executive involved with Coca-Cola’s North American marketing efforts, said the new approach is designed to resonate with consumers who are bombarded with an estimated 2,500 commercial messages a day.

``It’s important to find a refreshing way to get a message across,″ he said Thursday in a telephone interview. ``If we had done the expected, I don’t think we would be as effective in breaking through the clutter and standing out.″

The new ads are debuting as the cola segment of the soft drink business is facing increasing competition from flavored carbonated drinks and bottled waters.

The trade publication Beverage Digest reported earlier this month that Coca-Cola Classic’s share of the take-home market rose 0.1 percentage point an industry-leading 15.9 percent in the first half of the year.

Citing data gathered by the market research organization ACNielsen, Beverage Digest said No. 2 Pepsi-Cola’s share slipped 0.5 percentage points to 14.4 percent in the same period.

``Coke and Pepsi have been putting a huge focus on getting their flagship colas growing again in a healthy way,″ said Beverage Digest publisher John Sicher.

He said the humorous approach of the new ads may reflect efforts by the new Coca-Cola’s chairman and chief executive Doug Daft to get the company to ``loosen up and have more fun.″

Gary Hemphill, an executive with the consulting and research firm Beverage Marketing Corp., said the new ads ``are clearly an attempt to use humor to link the brand with magical moments in peoples lives.″

Cobbin said Coca-Cola hopes the ads leave people with this message: ``Coke is an important part of my life and I would like to have more of it.″

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