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Thursday, March 18, 1999

Diet Coke promotion reaches out to book readers 

June Preston  
Atlanta, Mar 17: Diet Coke may never replace coffee as the drink of choice for constant readers. But Coca-Cola Co's campaign to lure consumers with book extracts is proving far more successful than expected, a Coke spokeswoman stated on Tuesday.

``We anticipated in November that we would have 35 million orders (for novel excerpts) from our individual bottling partners, and in the first two weeks we had received 45 million orders, which really indicates the level of success this promotion is going to have,'' spokeswoman Diana Garza said.

Beginning on February 1, the beverage giant began packaging 32-page selections from novels with all 12- and 24-packs of Diet Coke.

The nation's third most popular soft drink after Coca-Cola Classic and Pepsi, Diet Coke has been facing new competition of late from arch-rival PepsiCo's Pepsi One, which the company introduced with a $100 million launch last October.

The campaign was prompted by Coke's market research showing that Diet Coke drinkers are mostly women andthat those women read at least seven books per year. In contrast, the Atlanta firm's Coke Classic, a non-diet beverage, is consumed mostly by men who buy just one or two books per year.

Garza said the company would not be able to assess the campaign's effect on Diet Coke sales until it sees third quarter 1999 sales, and it would decide then whether to continue the promotion, the company's first of its type.

But Nora Roberts, a best-selling author whose new novel, ``River's End,'' is one of six featured in the promotion, was not complaining. Roberts said she had just learned that the book would be No 2 on this week's New York Times bestseller list.

It was not clear whether the Diet Coke campaign had an impact on that ranking since novels by the prolific writer -- Roberts has published more than 100 novels and has 70 million copies in print -- often top the list.

The campaign also features excerpts by Maeve Binchy, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Elmore Leonard and Lisa Scottoline, as well as from ``ChickenSoup for the Couples' Soul,'' by Jack Canfield and Mark Hansen.

Roberts said public response during her current book tour led her to believe the Diet Coke campaign has affected sales. ``People are bringing the excerpt to book signings and asking me to sign the excerpt and the book,'' she said. ``Already I've had two people come up to me and say, `I've never read you before, but I read this excerpt so now I'm going to buy the book,' which is what this is all about.''

Garza said Penguin Putnam and the other publishing houses -- Delacourt Press, Doubleday, Health Communications and HarperCollins -- had been enthusiastic when they learned how much money and other resources Coke would pour into the current promotion.

``Most publishing houses really operate on a shoestring budget, and when we began talking about millions and millions of dollars -- which to us is just part of doing business -- they were really quite excited,'' Garza said.

Copyright © 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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