Ad Track: McDonald's adds espresso as ads taunt Starbucks

McDonald's is now serving espresso in Starbucks' home Seattle market and has billboards there with pointed messages, such as: "Four bucks is dumb." The point, of course, is that what folks pay for some espresso or latte drinks at Starbucks. A small McDonald's latte is about $1.99.

It's a "lighthearted" local promotion that reflects McDonald's "fun approach to our brand," McDonald's spokeswoman Danya Proud says.

But Starbucks isn't biting — and it won't respond to the ads, spokeswoman Deb Trevino says. Yet, she does point out that some of the java giant's drinks are similarly priced to McDonald's.

For instance, a cup of brewed coffee costs about the same at Starbucks and McDonald's in the Seattle market.

"For us, the bottom line is not price," Trevino says. "Customers come to us for the experience."

P&G ad spending shrinks

Procter & Gamble, the biggest U.S. advertiser, has serious plans to cut global marketing costs in 2009. The sour economy and unstable media environment offer opportunities for companies to re-evaluate ad spending, P&G CEO A.G. Lafley said at an analyst conference last week. "Because we're the biggest advertiser in a lot of these countries," he says, "we just go in and tear up the contract."

P&G already did major slicing in 2008, according to new TNS Media Intelligence data. It spent $2.3 billion on media in the first nine months of the year, a 5.9% drop vs. a year ago.

Overall ad spending for January through September fell 1.7%, with auto, telecom and retail marketers all slashing outlays. For a look at advertising spending trends in the top 10 categories, see the above chart.

Pepsi glass is half-full

Pepsi-Cola's new marketing will play up optimism. Research found that target buyers — so-called Millennials born 1980 to 1990 — are "confident" about 2009, and 95% agree it's important "to maintain a positive outlook on life."

A redesigned logo on cans showing up in stores now looks like a smile. Ads from TBWA/Chiat/Day Los Angeles, which unseated BBDO New York as Pepsi's agency, may begin in January. Pepsi also will be a big player in February's Super Bowl, where it paid a premium to keep rival Coca-Cola ads out of the first half.

Drugmakers prescribe ad rules

The catchphrase, "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV," may soon show up in prescription drug ads. Among tightened voluntary guidelines unveiled by drugmakers last week is one calling for ads that star actors "in the roles of health care professionals" to disclose the folks are actors.

Other Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) ad rule revisions:

• Be sure celebrity endorsers support the drug.

• Disclose whether health care pros in ads got something of value to pitch the drug.

• Put ads "inappropriate" for kids in media where 90% of the audience is age 18 or older.

Doesn't take the cake

Fruitcake just can't get respect. The much-mocked dessert ranked last in an NPD online survey of holiday snacking plans: Just 11% of 3,600 adults surveyed expect to eat any over the holidays, even behind trail mix (12%). "Do you really need to ask why fruitcake is at the very bottom of the barrel?" NPD spokeswoman Kim McLynn says.

Atop NPD's holiday snack list was cookies, at 65%, but No. 2 was a shock. Vegetables edged No. 3 chocolate in expected holiday snacking.

But the Ad Team strongly discourages putting out veggies for St. Nick. He's a cookietarian.

Making the holiday circuit

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