Coke finally scores another winner

In the Borat-style ads, two supposed "brand managers" for Coca-Cola Classic approach real-life lawyers and tell the incredulous attorneys that they want their help to sue Coke Zero for "taste infringement."

Coke Zero has gotten a healthy ad budget — $75 million in 2006 — and been given exposure in some of the company's big sponsorship deals. Zero ads ran in early-season episodes of American Idol last winter, and branded cups appeared on the judges' table for two weeks in May as the contest neared a winner. Coca-Cola has been an American Idol sponsor since the first season, and the high-profile product placement has been reserved mostly for the flagship Coke Classic.

Trying to sell a diet drink to men, however, also has pushed marketers to be innovative. Last week, for instance, the Coke Zero website introduced a Fantasy Football section. Visitors can design a championship ring, create a touchdown dance and upload their image to the grandstand of fans. They also can send "smack talk" taunts to fellow fantasy players.

Ads also ran in college basketball games and the NCAA tournament. Online promotion for the tournament included an interactive "Bracket-O-Matic" that automatically filled in tournament brackets. Players could choose such strategies as Dynasty vs. Cinderella or State vs. Private and Bracket-O-Matic would make the choices.

To bring Zero this far in the cola playoffs, Coca-Cola had to get past a slump in growth and let the brand marketers tweak the marketing message until it scored with guys.

"Coke showed they can take a product that maybe got a little lost at the beginning and turn it around," says John Faucher, JPMorgan beverage analyst. "They showed they are willing to stick with it."


Havin' a swine time. Flying pigs have taken off with marketers.

• To promote a rewards-focused money market account, Capital One cof early next month will unveil a Skybus Airlines jet adorned with big pink pigs, as well as the Capital One name. It will fly Skybus routes for six months.

Why the pork? "This is to highlight that a company is rewarding consumers for saving (rather than spending) … an event that until now was thought would only happen when pigs fly," spokeswoman Pam Girardo said in an e-mail.

• The Philadelphia Inquirer in May took a porcine approach to promoting subscriptions by projecting images of flying pigs across the outside of its headquarters.

• And Frito-Lay has made a pig the mascot for its new Flat Earth chips, made with fruit and veggies. "The Flat Earth Flying Pig is a fitting symbol for a snack that was once thought impossible," Frito proclaimed in its press release.

It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it. Condom maker Durex is looking for volunteers to test its wares. It has launched website, to recruit "sexual intercourse enthusiasts" to fill out an online application explaining why he or she should be picked as one of 1,000 product testers. "It's not a bad job to apply for," says Durex brand manager Steve Mare. "Testers need to be at least 18 years of age, but there is no upward age limit. Active grandparents are encouraged to apply."

In the first week, the company had received more than 8,000 applications. The contest closes Sunday at midnight.

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