Virgin Cola Issues Brash Challenge

As it begins a steep climb onto retail shelves, upstart Virgin Cola is taking on titans Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola in a new TV commercial featuring chairman Richard Branson.
The 30-second spot, breaking today from agency Ground Zero, shows the British entrepreneur standing on a Virgin Cola soapbox on Ellis Island, inviting viewers to step up and “say something.” He figuratively thumbs his nose at Coke and Pepsi, accusing them of spending $500 million on ads last year and “saying nothing.”
In the spot, Branson challenges Coke president and chief executive officer Douglas Ivester to stand on the box on July 4 and “say something.”
Court Crandall, the agency’s creative partner, who co-wrote the TV spot with copywriter Adam Solomon, said Virgin Cola’s goal is to “demonstrate [it is] the voice of a different and younger generation.”
Upcoming ads in the Santa Monica, Calif., agency’s estimated $10-15 million campaign will feature personal messages from “real” people, celebrities and “notorious” characters. “These are people you won’t see in a Pepsi or Coke commercial,” Crandall said.
The ads, running in major markets throughout the U.S., include print, outdoor and online executions.
Virgin is attempting to break into a U.S. soft drink market dominated by Coke Classic, with a 20.6 percent share, and Pepsi, with 14.5 percent, according to Beverage Digest. Third-ranked RC Cola holds a share of less than 2 percent.
–with Karen Benezr