Ad Watch: You're getting Fanta

"Drink me: I'm trendy" is the message behind the latest advertising campaign for Fanta. Hardly a unique selling-point, one would think. But it is for Fanta, which has suffered years of neglect by its parent, Coca- Cola, while rival Tango has taken Britain by storm.

Fanta's new campaign features ads designed to "reflect the fun personality of the drink", Coca-Cola explains. In one commercial, a group of boring American teenagers obsessed with mud (they live, breathe and wash in it) have their lives revolutionised by something orange. No, not Tango but Fanta, whose influence turns the tribe into Face-reading trendsetters. In another, pushing ice is the social highlight for a fictional Canadian community. Except when under the influence of Fanta, that is, when they don summer clothes and get a life.

The aim is to resurrect Fanta in the UK, where it languishes at 10th position in the sales league for soft drinks. In contrast, outside the UK - where Tango is not available - Fanta is the fourth most popular. Coca-Cola sees "no logical reason" for this, but says "There is no orange war."

Fanta benefits from its parent's supply contract with McDonald's - it's the fast food giant's official orange drink. But this has done little to grow consumer interest in the brand.

The flavoured drinks sector has stayed still in the UK simply "because we've not invested in it", a Coke spokeswoman, Louise Terry, explains. Ten years ago, flavoured fizzy drinks were selling as many cans in the UK as fizzy colas. Now "colas have been making more noise - it's as simple as that." As a result, competition from a wide range of other non-alcoholic drinks - even coffee, tea and water - has taken its toll.

Which is hardly surprising when you consider Coca-Cola's chief preoccupation: winning the Cola War against arch-rival Pepsi, as upstarts such as Virgin Cola snap at the big boys' heels. Each cola giant invests tens of millions of pounds in marketing each year; the battle reached new heights last April when Pepsi unveiled its new blue can.

So, Fanta's solution? To shout louder. It's a "mainstream" brand with mass market appeal amongst discerning and advertising-literate l4-to- 17-year-olds, says Bruce Haines, chief executive of Leagas Delaney, the advertising agency behind the campaign.

"It's a brand that's had to grow up," he adds. To appeal to the under- 10s you must target the early teens; to appeal to early teens, 17-to- 19-year-olds. Where Tango plays to its British heritage, Fanta is all about "global context". Oh, and fun.

Without doubt, Fanta's new ads are appealing, especially the cod serious, all-American voice-over describing the bizarre preoccupations of the characters. Coca-Cola is spending no less than pounds 15m on the push, Ms Terry points out.

But there must be a question mark over a strategy that so self-consciously sets out to convince the world that Fanta is trendy. The difference with rival drinks business Britvic's approach for Tango (remember the bald Orangeman slapping faces with a large, orange rubber hand, or the xenophobic, blackcurrant-drinking businessman taking on the French?) is cult status. And here's the rub: Tango achieved it seemingly by not trying at all.

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