Stars Shine in Coke Campaign

NEW YORK–The Coca-Cola Co. unveiled to the press its first new advertising campaign in nearly two years on Thursday, featuring a mix of ordinary people and celebrities in situations meant to depict and reinforce Coke Classic’s positioning as a traditional, yet contemporary and relevant brand that speaks to the reality of everyday life.

Tagged “Real” [Adweek, Oct. 21], the multifaceted campaign features such celebrities as Penelope Cruz, Courtney Cox and her husband, David Arquette, and singer Mya, who teams with hip-hop artist Common in a 90-second spot that is the first of the three to break on The American Music Awards on Monday on ABC at 8 p.m. EDT. Print breaks next week in February magazines such as Seventeen and Teen People, among others. Lance Armstrong is featured in a future print ad, and magician David Blaine will appear in a TV spot later in the campaign [Adweek, Nov. 18]. Coke is also said to have signed Muhammad Ali for a print ad and possible a commercial [Adweek, Jan. 6]. In the spot, his early rhymes are compared to rap, sources said.

WPP-owned Berlin Cameron/Red Cell in New York developed the strategy and created the campaign and tagline [Adweek, Sept. 30]. Although the agency is on Coke’s roster, handling Dasani and Mello Yello, “Real” is its first work for Coke Classic.

The strategy seeks to reaffirm Coke’s iconic status while injecting a healthy dose of youthful relevance to a brand associated with tradition, hence its “Classic” moniker. It is not the first time the word “real” has been part of Coke’s campaign tagline. In 1969, Coke ads were tagged, “The real thing,” and in the early 1990s, the line was “Can’t beat the real thing.”

Sources estimated that media spending in North America through 2003 will exceed $260 million. Coke would not comment. The company spent $75 million in media from January to October 2002 on Coke Classic, per CMR.

In the first spot, Mya and Common sing an original song they wrote based on a 1960s jazz hook revered among musicians called ” Compared to What.” Interspersed are scenes of each singer casting an amused but skeptical eye on the trappings of celebrity. The spot tweaks even the concept of award shows such as the American Music Awards, of which Coke is a long-time sponsor: Mya rolls her eyes at an intrusive journalist who accosts her limousine. In another scene, a music executive pitches Common on a line of dolls in his likeness and unveils a statue of him. Common wants none of it.

The second spot shows actors Courtney Cox and her real-life husband, David Arquette, relaxing at home. She’s reading, he plays pinball. She goes to the kitchen and asks him if he wants something. After some back-and-forth that manages to reveal the mundane annoyances of marital communication, he asks for a Coke. Problem is, she sees there is only one left. She uses ice cubes imaginatively to divvy up the one bottle of Coke.

In the third spot, Penelope Cruz, dressed in a sexy black tank top, breathlessly enters a truck stop filled with guys sitting around. Thirsty and perspiring, she orders a Coke and drinks the entire 8 oz. bottle in one long draught, sheepishly burping afterwards.

In a statement, Esther Lee, chief creative officer of Coca-Cola North America, said, “These ads convey what consumers told us it means to ‘be real.’ Being true to yourself, plugging in to life and connecting with others, with a natural optimism. Creatively, the upbeat tone of the campaign reflects the heart, fun and desire that are core characteristics of Coca-Cola.”

Several more spots on TV and radio and additional print executions will roll out throughout the year. Among the directors used for the TV work are David Fincher (Fight Club, Panic Room), the Swedish-based directing company Traktor and music video director Chris Robinson.

Other spots in the pipeline depict typical situations in which the payoff depends on nuanced humor, a Coke representative said, including the tensions of having a roommate, the aimless Saturday night activities of suburban teens and a NASCAR spot featuring famous race-car drivers and their adoring female fans. Like the Mya and Common spot, that one makes use of music-Patsy Cline’s version of “The Girl from Ipanema,” substituting the word “girl” for “boy.”

IPG’s event-marketing unit Momentum created one spot in the campaign. It is an NCAA-related spot featuring late-night talk show host Craig Kilborn.

The new campaign is a debut of sorts for Steve Heyer, who was promoted last month from president and COO of Coca-Cola Ventures and Latin America region to president, COO of the Coca-Cola Co. As such, he is widely considered the heir apparent to current worldwide CEO Doug Daft. The “Real” campaign is the first under his stewardship. Heyer, 50, joined Coke from Turner Broadcasting System in April 2001, the same month Coke launched its last campaign, “Life tastes good.” That campaign was pulled on Sept. 11 after terrorist attacks in the U.S.

“Life tastes good” was created by Coke roster shop McCann-Erickson, whose parent, Interpublic Group, became “creative partner” on Coke Classic in December 2000. But McCann and other IPG agencies that contributed ideas struggled to create advertising to compete in consumers’ minds with those of Pepsi, whose “Joy of Cola” and then “Joy of Pepsi” campaign featured slick production values, bold music and most notably, the pop sensation Britney Spears. “Life tastes good,” by contrast, had a subdued, almost reflective tone, and the luster of its celebrities–Jakob Dylan and Christina Aguilera–had already begun to dim by the time the campaign broke.

Since 2001, Coke Classic spots have been largely tied to promotions, holidays and sports events and were created by McCann.

Berlin Cameron began submitting ideas on the brand last summer. After its strategy and concepts tested better than those of McCann, Heyer deemed Berlin Cameron lead creative agency for the new Coke Classic campaign, sources said. The new campaign also incorporates the Atlanta company’s “updated” visual identity in the use of a deeper red and slightly altered white ribbon.

IPG’s Universal McCann handles media duties for Coke Classic.

CORRECTION In a story about the preview of Coke’s new advertising campaign [Adweek, Jan.9], the musical artist in its NASCAR spot is Peggy Lee.

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