Martin to Debut Flavored Cola

The Martin Agency’s launch campaign for Vanilla Coke will focus on humor, not on the brand’s heritage, in an effort to pique consumers’ interest in flavored cola drinks.

Dean Jarrett, the Richmond, Va., shop’s vice president of communications, last week confirmed the branding assignment, but de-clined further comment on Martin’s national television, radio and print launch set for early summer.

In Atlanta, Susan McDermott, a representative of the Coca-Cola Co., said the campaign—still in production—would be “humorous, but not nostalgic,” meaning creative would not play off the brand’s historic ties to soda fountains.

“We’re not headed that way,” said McDermott. “Our target market—18-29-year-olds—don’t have that concept. Our ads are going to be fun and reflect the smooth, unexpected personality of Vanilla Coke.”

Client research suggests that nearly three-quarters of the U.S. population is willing to try flavored colas. The new campaign, said analysts, is an attempt by Coke to revive consumers’ flagging interest in cola-based beverages.

The agency won the business on the strength of a pitch led by president and creative director Mike Hughes and group cd Hal Tench.

“The concepts we saw from Martin were the ones we liked best,” said McDermott, who refused to elaborate. Sources said Martin will produce as many as four 30-second television spots.

Martin has worked on Coca-Cola projects for more than a decade. Its interactive unit handled Web as-signments for Dasani last year. The shop produced TV, outdoor and print work for Mr. Pibb and Mello Yello intermittently from 1993 through 1997.

The new drink, which launched last Wednesday in a promotion at the Vanilla Bean Cafe in Pomfret, Conn., hits store shelves this week in 20-ounce plastic bottles.

A Vanilla Coke media budget was not available, but the company has not advertised its other flavored cola product, Cherry Coke, since 1998, when it spent just $2 million.

“The idea of Vanilla Coke has been out there a long time,” said McDermott. “But the most important factor in this launch is the fact that young people think it’s a cool idea.”

PepsiCo attempted a pre-emptive strike last Tuesday with the introduction of Pepsi Blue, a berry-flavored drink that will appear in stores this August.