Diet Coke: One Calorie, No Beefcake

Sorry, ladies, the clock is winding down on Lucky Vanous' fame-filled 15 minutes. Seems the topless construction hunk, ogled by female office workers as he downs a Diet Coke, soon may be jobless. Word is that, partly because of tough competition from other soft drinks, Coca-Cola plans no sequel in its 1995 commercials. "We will not do things just to make you feel good," says Coke's marketing chief, Sergio Zyman, of the company's marketing philosophy.

One reason to squelch the popular TV spot, which debuted in January, is that Lucky could upstage the product. But mainly, a source close to the company says, Coke wants to shift its ads' theme (current slogan: "This is Refreshment") back to the taste of the soda (a previous tagline: "Just for the Taste of It").

The point is to combat teas, designer waters, and fancy fruit drinks that have flooded the beverage aisles, pushing out diet soda. The overall market share for diet soda fell to 28.2% in late 1993, down from the 1991 peak of 29.8%, says Maxwell Consumer Report. While the tasty new products have more calories, they project a natural, health-conscious image. Next year, archrival Pepsi-Cola is expected to offer a new "reduced calorie" soda aimed at Diet Coke. Single-calorie Diet Coke itself has held its own, boosting its share in supermarkets by 1.7% for the 12 months through Mar. 31. Yet the source says Coke fears erosion if it doesn't act.

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