Virgin Cola’s Renegade Branson Adds His Own Punch To Cola War

Virgin chairman Richard Branson issues a challenge to Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola in a new TV spot from Ground Zero supporting the U.S. launch of Virgin Cola.
The 30-second spot, which breaks today, shows the British entrepreneur standing on a Virgin Cola soapbox on Ellis Island. “Last year Coke and Pepsi spent half a billion dollars on advertising and said nothing,” Branson says. He then invites viewers to step up and “say something” from the box on July 4, and challenges Coke president and chief executive Douglas Ivester to be the first to do so.
A previous publicity stunt for the brand saw Branson riding a tank through New York City and calling on Ivester to “surrender.” And a print ad in the July issue of Spin has him challenging Ivester to an arm-wrestling match. “We saw the ad [in Spin], and we cannot imagine a more appropriate place for it to appear,” said a representative for Atlanta-based Coke.
Court Crandall, the agency’s creative partner, who co-wrote the TV spot with copywriter Adam Solomon, said Virgin’s goal is to “demonstrate [it is] the voice of different and younger generation.”
Upcoming ads in the Santa Monica, Calif., agency’s estimated $10-15 million campaign will feature personal message from “real” people as well as celebrities and “notorious” figures, Crandall said. “These are people you won’t see in a Pepsi or Coke commercial,” he said.
The campaign, running in major markets around the U.S., will include print, outdoor and online executions.
Coke Classic has a 20.6 percent share of the U.S. soft drink market, and Pepsi 14.5 percent, according to Beverage Digest. Third-ranked RC Cola holds less than a 2 percent share.
–with Michael McCarthy

Publish date: June 29, 1998 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT