In new commercials, two Coca-Cola executives want to sue their Coke Zero colleagues for "taste infringement."
The advertising critic for Adweek magazine, Barbara Lippert, said although the commercials are a little hard to understand, she thinks they are very funny and effective.
"Because with all of these brands, these flavors, all these extensions, people are really confused and so you wonder what's going on inside the company," Lippert told The Early Show co-anchor Russ Mitchell. "It's like sibling rivalry. They don't want all these other brands to take away from their own brand. And so this stuff actually started on the Internet, just as a side piece to the more conventional commercials. They were so popular that they edited them down and put them on TV."
The series of three ads features actors playing Coke executives and unknowing lawyers who appear totally baffled.
"We want to just sue them back to the stone age, to send a message that they're tampering with really the flagship of the company," one of the actors says.
"It's one company," a lawyer says. "It's like you're suing yourself."
"But they're on a different part of our floor," an actor insists.
Lippert said that this kind of humor is very popular these days with shows like "The Office" and movies like "Office Space." People spend so much time at work and rivalries with "the guys down the hall" start forming.
Coke is targeting specific demographics. The new Diet Coke campaign debuted during last month's Oscars. The latest Coke Zero campaign will air during the upcoming NCAA men's basketball tournament.
"They're trying to reach young males," she said. "They decided Coke Zero is a young male drink and these young males don't want anything associated with diet because they think it's a 'mom' drink."
Coke is using its Web site to get younger people to interact with the brand, she said. They need to revitalize their product because 2005 was the first year that beverage sales went down and people are choosing water and tea over soda.
"They think if they keep coming out with Coke products, you'll keep trying them and won't go away from soda," Lippert said.
Even if sales have been slipping, Coke has been an iconic American brand for as long as Americans can remember. Lippert said they began dominating the market in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s when there was less competition and the brand grew to become part of American pop culture.
"You remember the mountaintop ad made people feel good in the 60s, Vietnam war...Mean Joe Green, the women watching the guy… It sort of reflects what's come along culturally at every moment," she said. "Then for a while they've had a problem, you know, they're too fractured, too many outlets, didn't have any kind of coherent message. Now they're back."
The challenge Coke must now face is to establish an identity for each of their different products, Lippert said.
"There's even a new Coke now, Diet Coke with vitamins, Diet Coke Plus. Then they bring out like there's going to be a Cherry Coke Zero," Lippert said. "Apparently they feel like there's a point where it just benefits the whole brand in general to keep you trying these things, even if they have to take them off the market like Vanilla Coke."