Diet Coke Dumps Campaign
Steve’s breakdown: This might be pie-in-the-sky thinking but Droga5 has only had this account for 13 months and they just made a major mistake. I’d keep an eye on Diet Coke especially when they are now running an ad line from 1983: “Just for the taste of it”.
ATLANTA, GA: A campaign for Diet Coke carrying the theme “You’re on,” which the Coca-Cola Company introduced in North America only three months ago, is being turned off after being mocked in social media.
The ads are to be replaced on Wednesday with a campaign for the summer reviving the theme “Just for the taste of it,” which introduced Diet Coke in 1983 and has returned at least three times since. The replacement campaignbegins with print ads and commercials.
The “You’re on” ads presented Diet Coke as a pick-me-up for young strivers, akin to an energy drink. A billboard described it as “how go-getters get going.” A print ad said: “You’ve got an 8 a.m. interview, a perfect black suit and three letters in your future: C.E.O.” And in a television commercial that ran most recently on Saturday, an announcer proclaimed: “When it’s time to be on, it’s time for Diet Coke. You’re on.”
Text accompanying the same commercial at dietcoke.comreads, “Whether you’re the best man about to give a speech at your friend’s wedding or Taylor Swift about to go onstage in front of millions, the refreshment of Diet Coke keeps you on.”
The replacement ads, by contrast, are more traditional, straightforwardly playing up the brand’s taste and sugar-free status. The new commercials sing the praises of Diet Coke’s “delicious crisp taste.” And a new print ad proclaims: “There’s nothing like the refreshing taste of Diet Coke. Except maybe finding a twenty in your pocket. That’s pretty great.”
The abrupt end for “You’re on” comes after the ads were sent up by several advertising and marketing bloggers who noticed that in some ads the theme appeared above the Diet Coke logo so that it could be read as “You’re on Diet Coke.” (In other ads, the order was reversed: “Diet Coke You’re on.”) According to the bloggers, “You’re on Diet Coke” evoked a cocaine habit along with the history of Diet Coke’s sibling, Coca-Cola, which once included cocaine as an ingredient.
A headline on a post on the AdFreak blog asked, “Is Diet Coke Dabbling in Drug References in Its Ads?” A headline on The Huffington Post declared, “Diet Coke Trying to Act Like This Isn’t a Cocaine Joke.” And a blog named Animal created parodies depicting lines of cocaine near a razor blade bearing the Diet Coke logo.
Those reactions were far from the firestorms of outrage in social media that doomed recent ads from brands like Chevrolet, Hyundai, Mountain Dew and Reebok. An assessment by Bloomberg Businessweek magazine termed the Diet Coke campaign “a minor flub.” Still, once ads have been denigrated, derided or lampooned on blogs, Facebook or Twitter, they are often perceived as damaged goods.
When the bloggers began mocking the campaign in March, a month after its introduction, Coca-Cola North America responded with a statement that it “in no way endorses or supports the use of any illegal substance.” After several weeks, the japes petered out — but they, of course, remain available online.
The phrase “You’re on” was intended as shorthand for “the uplift” Diet Coke gives consumers, encouraging them to “bring on your ‘A game,’ ” Stuart Kronauge, general manager for sparkling beverages at Coca-Cola North America, said on Tuesday.
Ms. Kronauge deflected questions from a reporter asking what she thought about the failure of the “You’re on” ads. “We felt like ‘You’re on’ worked,” she replied. “It’s not at all that ‘You’re on’ failed.”
Asked why the campaign was concluding so suddenly if it was not a flop, Ms. Kronauge said that the new ads offered “a different way to talk about the brand” that will “resonate with our core loyal followers.”
“It’s focusing on the product itself, the great crisp taste, the zero calories, the deliciousness,” she added.
As for the drug-related criticism, “iconic brands always create a conversation,” Ms. Kronauge said. “We felt it was mostly limited to the marketing community.”
The disappearance of “You’re on” is not entirely a surprise. Some Diet Coke ads in the last month replaced the theme with the words “Be ambitious. Not thirsty.”
A reason that “You’re on” was focused on younger consumers was to stimulate demand for Diet Coke, which like other diet sodas — and carbonated soft drinks in general — is losing sales to energy drinks, water, coffee and tea. According to the newsletter Beverage Digest, Diet Coke remained the No. 2 American soft drink last year, behind only Coca-Cola, but volume fell 6.8 percent compared with 2012.
“The whole diet category got dinged,” said John D. Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest, noting that Diet Pepsi fell 6.9 percent, Diet Mountain Dew fell 3.1 percent and sales of Coke Zero, fast-growing until now, fell 0.1 percent.
In general, said Mr. Sicher, who has not seen the new Diet Coke campaign, “Coke and Pepsi both need to make marketing more about attributes or intrinsics.”
“It’s very important to get back to marketing these brands, at least in part, as delicious, refreshing and tasting good, and worrying less about brand image,” he added.
The “You’re on” campaign was created by Droga5 in New York; a spokeswoman at the agency referred inquiries to the client. Although the replacement campaign is being created internally at Coca-Cola North America, Ms. Kronauge said, from materials that have appeared in North America and overseas markets, Droga5 “absolutely continues to be” the creative agency of record for Diet Coke.
According to Kantar Media, Coca-Cola spent $26.1 million to advertise Diet Coke last year in major media, down from $28.8 million in 2012 but up from $23.4 million in 2011.
Access Confidential Link: Diet Coke