Pop Stars in Spots for Pop

The Martin Agency’s second campaign for Vanilla Coke casts actor Chazz Palminteri with American Idol critic Simon Cowell in one spot and hip-hop singer Missy Elliott in another.

The commercials bring the actor back as a tough guy who, with sinister sidekick Jimmy, appears to coerce endorsements from the celebrities as part of his marketing plan for the drink.

In one 30-second spot that breaks tomorrow on Fox’s American Idol, Palminteri asks Cowell for his opinion of Vanilla Coke. While it is fairly clear that the acerbic critic likes the beverage, Palminteri does not give him a chance to air his views. Before Cowell can say a word, Jimmy shows him a cue card with his endorsement already printed on it. The commercial, directed by Phil Joanou of Villains in Beverly Hills, Calif., ends with a confused Cowell voicing his own positive opinion.

According to a Coca-Cola representative, the Atlanta company chose Cowell because he supports the brand’s personality. “People have different opinions about him, but everyone finds him intriguing,” the rep said. “And I think most people like to see him being told what to think.”

Elliott’s spot will break April 1, also on American Idol. The set-up here is that the entertainer assumes she will be asked to rap about Vanilla Coke. Instead, the enthusiastic Palminteri presents a surprised Elliott with her own bobblehead doll.

The campaign, overseen by creative director Hal Tench at the Richmond, Va., agency, includes radio and outdoor advertising. A budget for the effort was undisclosed. The client spent about $25 million advertising Vanilla Coke from June through November 2002, according to CMR.