Introducing 'Bloke Coke' - is this now the real thing?

Coca-Cola is launching a male-oriented soft drink backed by a month-long television advertising and poster campaign. The drink has been dubbed "Bloke Coke".

The US corporation's British arm will spend £8m in the campaign to sell the no-sugar drink, which is aimed at health-aware young men who think that Diet Coke is too feminine.

The Atlanta-based corporation is describing Coke Zero as their biggest product launch since Diet Coke, 22 years ago.

The drink is important for Coca-Cola as it struggles to improve on its share of the embattled market for carbonated drinks. The sector has been hit by the general trend towards healthier eating.

The company has also been embroiled in controversies worldwide over the alleged poisoning of water supplies by a plant in India and the murder of trade union officials in Columbia. The latter is being investigated by the International Labour Organisation - with the company's approval.

The value of sales of Coca-Cola soft drinks in Britain rose by just the rate of inflation last year, 2 per cent, to reach £884m.

In the television advertising campaign starting on Monday, the properties of the new drink will be depicted as "masculine". The adverts will feature a Coke Zero drinker, called Dan by Coke's marketing department, who expresses surprise that a Coke without sugar is tasty.

He goes on to imagine that it may be possible to have "girlfriends without five-year plans", "bras without the fumbling", "workmates without work" and other pleasant scenarios.

Yesterday, the company began the campaign by releasing a picture of the pop singer Cheryl Tweedy, from the group Girls Aloud, wearing a business suit and black hat, and clutching a can of the drink. A poll accompanying the image said that, if they could do anything for a day, most women would choose to "find out what goes on in men's heads".

The television ads, combined with poster and internet advertising, will position Coke Zero as a humorous alternative to Coke's main brands. They have been directed by Damien O'Donnell, the director of East is East and Inside I'm Dancing.

Four million sample Coke Zeros will be distributed, reaching what the company hopes will be two-thirds of the target audience.

Zero Coke's livery will be black and red in a departure from the company's usual red and white.

Commenting on the launch, Cathryn Sleight, marketing director for Coca-Cola GB said: "We're confident we've created a campaign that's not only entertaining and engaging for a young male audience, but one that will excite them and ensure that they can't miss the fact that Coca-Cola Zero has arrived."

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