OPINION: Mills on ... Diet Coke

Next to dreaming up new corporate identity names - Consignia,

Invensys, Accenture, etc - I've always thought the hardest job in our

business is coming up with slogans and taglines. How do you capture the

essence of a brand, its positioning and its whole being in one short

sentence, or sometimes not even a sentence? It's got to be short, catchy

and relevant. But should it merely repeat the point of the ad, or should

it go a little further?

And that's before you even get to the internal politics and wrangling

that must take place before a line is approved. Not everyone will wish

to offer an opinion on a piece of creative work, but they sure as hell

will when it comes to the slogan.

The best (BMW, Tesco, Heineken, Hamlet, Ronseal) are under-appreciated

works of genius. The bad ones are terrible. This week we have two new

ones to consider from the Coca-Cola stable. One, for Coke, is 'Life

tastes good', which I think we can safely say is from the

let's-hammer-the-point-home-in-case-they-don't-get-the-ad school. It's

bland, vacuous and generic. Does Coke seriously believe in a phrase that

could apply to dozens of other products, let alone competitors? The best

that can be said is that it's positive and upbeat, in the same

relentlessly cheery manner of Coke's advertising, but I suspect the

clammy hand of a nervous Atlanta marketing department in this one.

Diet Coke's tagline is, depending on your point of view, either totally

meaningless or pregnant with possibility. On its own, 'How it is' says

nothing and adds nothing. Allied to the new campaign, however, it is

capable of virtually any meaning the target market wishes to place on

it. That's because, unlike its predecessor (the late, lamented Hunk

series), the new ads are rooted in reality, not fantasy.

The new ads are also significant because they mark the launch of parent

Coca-Cola's much-vaunted locally driven ad strategy, in which different

Coke brands in different countries are allowed or, if you believe the

PR, encouraged to discard the diktats of Atlanta and do what's right for

the British market. This may well explain, what is for Diet Coke, the

radical decision to embrace slice-of-life.

Of course, when I say slice-of-life I don't mean gritty reality as

experienced by its target market of twentysomething, singleton women. I

mean slice-of-life as seen through the media prism's view of this

stereotype, ie Bridget Jones, Cold Feet and Smack the Pony. In this

world, the Diet Coke drinker is humorous and confident,accompanied at

all times (except when she's chasing the man of her dreams) by her best

mates with whom she shares everything.

At the same time she's also insecure (particularly about her weight) and

neurotic. These are Girls Who Just Want to Have Fun (Especially With Her

Mates Jude And Shazza) except when they're Girls Who Just Want a Man

(And Commitment).

In terms of strategy this is spot-on, but executionally it makes the

campaign slightly schizoid. In one ad, man and woman are in a


Man asks: 'Is it all right if I call you?' Girl whips out pen, writes

number on paper tablecloth; adds work, mobile, fax, pager, best

friend's, mum's numbers. Girl then tears tablecloth in half and presents

to open-mouthed man. 'So call me,' she says. Casting, pace, acting,

script - all spot on. It made several Campaign staff laugh out loud. In

another ad, our three heroines tease and taunt a hapless park-keeper.

It's funny-odd, not funny-haha.

First ad: v.v. good, positive thoughts 1; second ad: v.v. odd, slightly

offputting for a bloke.

Dead cert for a Pencil? Come on, this is Coca-Cola.

Will it work? Diet Coke and Bridget Jones. I should coco.

What would the chairman's wife say? Who wants Bridget. Bring back the


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