Adwatch (18 May): Top 20 recall - Diet Coke on trend

Diet Coke 'Handbags' by Mother
Diet Coke 'Handbags' by Mother

The brand's latest puppet-starring ad continues to push women's fashion buttons.

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Coca-Cola is very clear about its gender segmentation: Coke Zero for the chaps and Diet Coke for the girls. Coke Zero took a while to take off, but the black can is everywhere these days.

In contrast, as with many other sugar-free food and beverage brands, Diet Coke targets women without talking about calories. Its most memorable advertising was in 1996, when we were first given the opportunity to ogle the Diet Coke 'hunk' while an amorous Etta James told us all about her intentions 'to make lurve to you'. The attempt to go unisex in the early noughties with an animatronic tortoise was considerably less successful and hard to understand from a marketing point of view. I'm sure Coke had its reasons.

By 2010, Diet Coke presumably felt far more comfortable returning to an overtly female-oriented approach, but the Duffy ad seemed too 'Pepsi'; a strange strategy, as Diet Coke has managed to retain a frisky charm and an edge of (mild) sophistication that Pepsi lacks.

I must out myself as a fan of last year's 'puppet' ad. The Flashdance soundtrack and vaguely fashion-house setting made me giggle. It seemed a far more relevant take on office life today than any of the last few 'Hunk' ads. The latter had started to feel very dated in a Dolly Parton 9 to 5 movie sort of way.

The puppets, however, are in tune with what the target audience is into: Grazia, Asos,, Glee, The Only Way is Essex, Adele, Rihanna, etc. Fashion is everything these days - you just can't escape it. After all, the royal wedding was just one big fashion opportunity (missed), wasn't it?

Having said that, I think this mood is captured far more powerfully by this year's limited-edition bottles designed by Karl Lagerfeld. He did H&M, and now he's doing Diet Coke - it's all he lives on, apparently.

The new 'Handbags' execution seeks to continue to tap into this women-and-fashion thing, and, to an extent, it succeeds. Anyone who reads Marie Claire or Look knows that huge bags have been big news for a couple of years, with mini bags (preferably Chanel or River Island's take on it) a more recent counter-trend.

Somehow it doesn't feel quite as charming as 'Flashdance', but it makes me smile - and it takes the puppets out of the office and into something very like Selfridges, which is rather refreshing.

Beyond English-speaking countries, the brand is known as Coke Light, which appears more in line with its current communications. Presumably, we, too, are heading that way.

Adwatch (18 May) Top 20 recall
Latest May-11 Brand Agency/TV Buyer Recall
rank       %
1 -1 Asda 

Saatchi & Saatchi/


2 (–) Sky  WCRS/MediaCom 44
3 (–)



DLKW Lowe/Carat 41
4 (–) Diet Coke  Mother/Vizeum 40
5 (–) Strongbow 

St Luke's/


6 (–)

Marks &


RKCR Y&R/Walker


7 (–) Magners 

The Red Brick


8= (7=)


Special K 

Leo Burnett/Carat 32
8= (–)



M&C Saatchi/

Walker Media

10= (–)

Nikon Coolpix


Jung Von Matt/


10= (–)




PHD Rocket

12= -4 Morrisons  DLKW Lowe/MEC 28
12= (–) Sainsbury's 

Abbott Mead Vickers


14= (–) Dreams  RKCR Y&R/Starcom 27
14= (–) L'Oreal Recital Preference 

McCann Erickson/


14= (15=) Homebase 

Leo Burnett/


17 (–) John Frieda Frizz-Ease  Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners/ZenithOptimedia 25
18= (–) Pepsi Max  CLM BBDO/Mindshare 24
18= (–) Argos 

CHI & Partners/


18= (–)

Yoplait Perle

de Lait 

Publicis Conseil/John

Ayling & Associates



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