OPINION: Stuart Elliott in America

After all the speculation, the gossip, the rumours, there it was, a

poster in a subway car on the Number 7 line, taking an advertising

columnist on a Saturday afternoon from Manhattan to a Mets game at Shea

Stadium.



The sign showed a close-up of a Coca-Cola logo, drenched in ice and

water, beads of moisture glistening against the red background.

Superimposed on the logo were, as the old song goes, three little words,

but in this instance they weren't 'I love you'.



They read 'Life tastes good'.



So, after many months of silence from Coca-Cola, which refused to

discuss reports in trade publications that the company would dump its

star-crossed slogan 'Enjoy' after only two years, here at last was

confirmation of the new approach. Initially it was believed the theme

had been narrowed to either 'Life tastes good' or 'The magic within',

but a swipe of the columnist's MetroCard at a subway turnstile brought

proof of what the new pitch would say.



The poster was up prematurely, more than a week before the official

unveiling of the massive new campaign for Coca-Cola, known as Coca-Cola

Classic in North America and Coke everywhere else. It's the first fruit

of the unprecedented relationship between Coca-Cola and the Interpublic

Group of Companies since Interpublic was hired in December to be the

'brand steward' of the flagship soft drink.



The stakes for the campaign could not be higher. Coke's sales are

flatter than, well, day-old Coke, particularly in key markets such as

the US.



And arch-rival PepsiCo seems to be gaining traction with sprightly,

apparently omnipresent 'Joy of Pepsi' ads for its primary brand,

Pepsi-Cola, centred on celebrities including the singer Britney

Spears.



That raises the stakes because after decades of can-to-can combat in the

competitive soft-drink market, for either Coke or Pepsi to increase its

sales volume significantly, it's not enough for one to have outstanding

advertising. The other one also must be turning in a sub-par

performance, or the soda stalemate simply remains at status quo.



That means the onus is on Interpublic to break through this time around

and develop an effective, long-term strategy for selling Coke, after the

lukewarm response generated by 'Enjoy'. That campaign was the brainchild

of Edge Creative, a now-defunct agency that had Coke as its sole client,

and executed by various Coke agencies around the world.



Now that Interpublic is in the driver's seat, the 'Life tastes good'

campaign is being produced only by Interpublic agencies and their

affiliates, including McCann-Erickson, Amster Yard and dRush. The

exception: promotional commercials, being produced by agencies such as

Leo Burnett.



Interpublic will benefit from a huge infusion of cash into the Coke

marketing budget, part of plans by Coca-Cola for a one-time increase of

as much as dollars 500 million for all its brands worldwide. Maybe 'Life

tastes good' will become a big hit largely because of the added

spending, which makes one wonder: would all that extra spending have put

over 'Enjoy'?



And did the poster make the columnist thirsty for a Coke? Well, when he

got to Shea, all he could find was Pepsi. That's because Pepsi owns the

'pour rights' at Shea, meaning only Pepsi and its sibling soft drinks

are sold there.



The three most important words in the cola wars may not be 'Life tastes

good' or even 'Joy of Pepsi' but - as with real estate - 'Location,

location, location'.



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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).