Special Report: Beverages

NEW YORK As more consumers move away from sugary sodas and toward healthier options, soft-drink makers are changing with the times by offering, among other things, a soda fortified with vitamins and minerals.

At the same time, they must support their core cola brands, which continue to ring up the most dollars. So, network TV viewers this fall can expect to be bombarded by a stream of beverage ads touting new, healthier offerings as well as the old favorites.

“Network TV advertising is so important for a couple of reasons. It’s important to continue to communicate a brand’s freshness and relevance to consumers. Also, with all of the line extensions, advertising the [core brand] has an impact across all of the brands,” says John Sicher, editor of Beverage Digest. “Network TV, although less relevant, is still very important because it reaches such a huge audience.”

The Coca-Cola Co. continues to throw a lot of support behind its spinoff Coke Zero, a non-calorie drink that has pushed the company deeper into the diet category while bolstering the Coke trademark.

“Coke will maintain heavy spend behind Coke Zero, which, after the early marketing misfires, has held its ground pretty well and is looking like a rare new item that could prove a long-term winner,” says Gerry Khermouch, editor of Beverage Business Insights.

Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Miami, has fashioned Coke Zero spots. One appeal features a fake lawsuit against the beverage for tasting too much like regular Coke. The Coca-Cola Co. spent more than $29 million on the offshoot, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Diet Coke Plus, which counts vitamins B3, B6 and B12 plus magnesium and zinc among its ingredients, is claiming “Great taste has its benefits” in a launch campaign created by Wieden + Kennedy, Portland.

At the same time, the company will continue to push its “Coke Side of Life” ad platform. That campaign, also created by W+K, is considered by some critics to be the brand’s best in more than a decade. Still, Coke’s volume continues to dwindle.

Coke’s ads generally hit the air in waves, points out Darryl Jursa, founder of Liquid Intelligence. “The big brands are like castles, and the drawbridge comes down during important selling periods like the holidays,” he says. Still, given the change in the marketplace, he adds, “You’ll also see other brands coming out from under the drawbridge.”

Pepsi is counting on consumers to feel good about its new “More happy” campaign from BBDO, New York, encompassing the brand’s familiar globe logo. Pepsi spent $152 million last year on network TV, down 23.6 percent from the previous year and making up 42.7 percent of its media budget for the year.

Coke spent $177 million on network, up 4.9 percent and about half its total media outlay.

As Coke continues to push “The Coke Side of Life” and as Pepsi works to establish its “More Happy” campaign, both brands will continue to look to network as an important tool for reaching the mass market, says Khermouch.

Diet Pepsi Max, an offering loaded with caffeine, will launch this summer in an effort to grab a share of the energy drink market. Pepsi is also looking to bring its sugarcane variety to the masses in the form of Pepsi Natural. (Jones Soda also has a sugarcane soda, while Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages is said to be looking into such an offering via its Dr Pepper brand.)

PepsiCo recently acquired all-natural sparkling drink Izze, and is also launching a calorie-burning soda called Tava to compete with Coke’s Enviga.

“The carbonated soft drink companies are trying to come up with a healthier image. That’s key for them. That’s what many of their new products are about,” says John Rodwan, editorial director at Beverage Marketing.

While still No. 2 in the cola wars, PepsiCo has led the way in the non-carbonated beverage arena. Its Gatorade, Tropicana and Aquafina brands are all top sellers in their categories. And the company spends to support those brands. Most recently, it tapped Harvey Keitel and Derek Jeter for the Gatorade spot “Thief,” created by Element 79, Chicago.

Coke is fighting back in a serious way, acquiring the Fuze juice and tea brand.

“It will be interesting to see whether Coke tries to put some meaningful media money behind newly acquired Fuze or sticks with a more guerrilla approach that has generally worked for new non-carbonated entrants,” says Khermouch. Coke also has a number of homegrown entries in its pipeline, including Lumaé, a healthy skin-promoting drink created in conjunction with beauty giant L’Oréal.