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Archive for Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cola wars return: Pepsi takes on Coke Zero

July 20, 2010

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— The cola wars are back, and this time they have zero calories but plenty of nostalgia. PepsiCo Inc. will premiere a revamped version of its “Diner” Super Bowl commercial on Monday night, pitting its Pepsi MAX against Coca-Cola’s popular Coke Zero, a brand five times its size.

Analysts say people love the funny, spirited rivalry of the decades-old cola wars and the move will benefit both soda makers. That’s good news for the $100 billion industry, which is seeing weak soft drink sales as shoppers switch to healthier juices and teas.

The premise of the new Pepsi MAX ad is the same from the 1995 original, one of the better loved commercials from Super Bowl XXIX: Delivery drivers from the rival soft drink makers form a short-lived friendship in a diner over music. The first ad’s song was The Youngblood’s “Get Together.” This time around it’s “Why Can’t We Be Friends” by War. They sample each other’s drinks and the Coca-Cola driver prefers the Pepsi product. And then the friendship comes to an abrupt — and funny — end.

The first version compared the longtime No. 2 Pepsi and Coca-Cola brands. This time around, the ads take on a very 21st century product — zero-calorie versions of their full-calorie counterparts.

Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, has been wildly successful with its five-year-old Coke Zero brand, which taps into the healthy shopper mindset. Now PepsiCo wants to move into that market with Pepsi MAX, which has its roots in Europe but is relatively new to the U.S. Pepsi MAX first launched in 1993 overseas and came to the U.S. in 2007, two years after Coke Zero’s release.

The entire brand did $1.7 billion in sales in 68 countries last year. Coke Zero has been growing in the double digits for four years now and is in 133 countries. The brand is worth more than $1 billion in sales.

The new ad is again directed by Joe Pytka, who has directed dozens of Pepsi ads over the years, including ones featuring notable stars such as Michael Jackson and Aretha Franklin. Viewers will see a familiar face. Art LaFleur, who played the Pepsi driver in the original, runs the diner.

Coca-Cola has not done comparison advertising for Coca-Cola Zero beyond comparing itself to Coca-Cola. It was quick to downplay the assertion that Pepsi MAX is better.

“Doesn’t a fight require two sides? As far as we can tell, the two drivers in this ad may be the only remaining Pepsi MAX drinkers,” said Coca-Cola North America spokesman Scott Williamson.

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