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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Advertising: Pepsi One Goes on a Television-Free, Celebrity-Free Commercial Diet

The New York Times > Business > Media & Advertising > Advertising: Pepsi One Goes on a Television-Free, Celebrity-Free Commercial Diet
Pepsi One Goes on a Television-Free, Celebrity-Free Commercial Diet
By STUART ELLIOTT
BIG campaign to reintroduce Pepsi One diet cola will be different in one big way from the campaigns that came before, as well as from typical campaigns for Pepsi-Cola soft drinks: no television commercials.

The Pepsi-Cola Company, long famous for elaborate, expensive spots stuffed with celebrities, music and special effects, is forgoing them for the multimillion-dollar Pepsi One campaign, now getting under way.

The TV commercials that helped introduce Pepsi One, which ran from 1998 to 2001 during high-profile programs like the Super Bowl and featured stars like Cuba Gooding Jr. and Kim Cattrall, are being replaced. In their stead are offbeat alternatives that include promotional events, online films, posters put up on construction sites, even trading cards.

"It's a change to have a campaign that lives outside TV," said Katie Lacey, vice president for carbonated beverages at Pepsi-Cola's North American division in Purchase, N.Y., part of PepsiCo.

"The opportunity to use different media to create more meaning, more connection, with the consumer is something we'll be looking to do more and more," Ms. Lacey added.

The goal of the humorous campaign is to reintroduce Pepsi One in a reformulated version using the sweetener Splenda, and broaden its appeal to include younger consumers and men, who often shun diet drinks. The campaign, by the Playa del Rey, Calif., office of TBWA/Chiat/Day, a division of TBWA Worldwide, is part of a blitz by Pepsi-Cola and the other soft drink giants to capitalize on growing demand for reduced-calorie sodas, which are far outpacing sales gains for their sugared counterparts.

The media strategy of forsaking television, so unconventional for Pepsi-Cola, is emblematic of efforts by major marketers to seek nontraditional methods of reaching increasingly elusive audiences. These approaches are often used to appeal to young consumers, who are as likely to be playing video games, sitting at PC's or sending text messages on their cellphones as they are to be staring at TV sets.

The campaign is "a smart thing for Pepsi to do," especially in trying to "capture more male consumers, because the big diet colas, Diet Pepsi and Diet Coke, definitely skew somewhat female," said John D. Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest, an industry newsletter based in Bedford Hills, N.Y.

Pepsi One sales peaked in 1999, a year after its introduction, at 83.7 million cases, according to Beverage Digest data, and have fallen steadily since, to 24.3 million cases in 2003 and 19.2 million last year. At the same time, Mr. Sicher said, the market share for diet sodas as a percentage of all carbonated soft drinks has been rising, to 29.1 percent in 2004 from 27.4 percent in 2003.

A desire to take advantage of the increasing interest in nonsugared sodas among younger, and younger male, consumers is behind the push to revive Pepsi One.

"One of the biggest issues males in their 20's have in coming into the category is the imagery of diet soft drinks and the word 'diet,' " Ms. Lacey said, "but with Pepsi One, it has never been there."

"And a different approach to the marketing should overcome the imagery resistance."

So "rather than launching a 30-second spot on the Super Bowl," Ms. Lacey said, there are elements like a Web site dedicated to Pepsi One (oneify.com), separate from the Pepsi-Cola Web site (pepsi.com); oversized billboards; trading cards, which appear in magazines; print ads, in publications atypical for Pepsi like Blender, Details, Giant, Stuff and Sync; and promotional events that will be planned to resemble art shows. The Tequila division of TBWA Worldwide is handling the interactive elements of the campaign.

The campaign features oddball characters created by Geoff McFet- ridge, a Southern California graphic designer who has worked for ESPN X Games, Nike and the young directors Sofia Coppola and Spike Jonze.

Its theme, "Oneify," is intended to bounce off the brand name as well as address seemingly contradictory trends in the youth market signaled by the word "one." Twenty-somethings often say they want to be perceived as individuals but also identify collectively with their peers.

"Kids are so smart, they'll call you out on overt marketing in a minute," said Lee Clow, chairman and chief creative officer at TBWA Worldwide, owned by the Omnicom Group. "So telling them a 'one-calorie, great taste' story is so ho-hum to them."

"If you engage them in unorthodox ways, with a bit of grace, charm, whimsy, fun and discovery," he added, "you can actually ask them to buy something."

TBWA Worldwide has been developing ideas for other clients that are also intended to go beyond the television commercial. For instance, there was a digital radio station that broadcast online, for the French Connection United Kingdom apparel brand, and an oversized billboard in Tokyo on which two-man soccer games were played, for the Adidas footwear brand.

The Pepsi One campaign is the first product work from TBWA/Chiat/Day for Pepsi-Cola; its previous campaigns have been for the iTunes promotions with Apple Computer as co-sponsor.

BBDO Worldwide in New York, also owned by Omnicom, creates campaigns for brands like Pepsi-Cola, Mountain Dew and Sierra Mist, and a third Omnicom agency, DDB Worldwide in New York, recently began creating campaigns for Diet Pepsi.

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