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Starbucks and McCafe Bring it On with New Ads

Last Updated Jun 1, 2009 10:31 PM EDT

Has Starbucks given up on convincing consumers that the $4-latte is a myth? The message of the new ad campaign seems to be 'okay, so maybe we do sell $4-lattes. But we're worth it.'

Some sample slogans:

"Beware of a cheaper cup of coffee. It comes with a price."
"Starbucks or nothing. Because compromise leaves a really bad aftertaste."
McDonald's isn't named specifically, but the implication is clear. The ads come across as a direct response to the "Four bucks is dumb" campaign -- though interestingly enough, it turns out the company never sanctioned that campaign, according to the the Wall Street Journal:
Last year, an advertising cooperative for McDonald's franchisees in the Seattle area ran a billboard with the message, "Four bucks is dumb."

McDonald's USA President Don Thompson said the company told the franchisees "'That's not the way we do it,' and they pulled the billboard down."
McDonald's is launching its own national ad campaign this week, but it's going the opposite direction of "four bucks is dumb." Instead, McDonald's seems to be trying to emphasize that its lattes, while reasonably priced, are still upscale and luxurious. The ads emphasize the accented e of McCafé and transform everyday words like "commute" and "cubicle" to "commuté" and "cubiclé."

And this is no small campaign. According to Dan Neil at the L.A. Times, the new publicity for McCafe will be "an everywhere-you-look, invade-your-dreams ad campaign ... that will be not so much viral as bubonic."
An estimated $100-million mega-buy across TV, Web, radio, print, outdoor and social media, the McCafe push beginning today will be, according to the company, its biggest "menu initiative" since it began serving breakfast in the 1970s.
But neither chain likes to acknowledge that they're competing with each other. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz still insists he isn't worried about McDonald's stealing business from Starbucks, and McDonald's says it's going after customers, not competitors.

So why is it that the two campaigns were launched in the same week? According to Starbucks Chief Marketing Officer Terry Davenport, it's just a coincidence.

Right, because that seems plausible.

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