Coke, Pepsi Kiss and Make Up Over Amish Cart Race Ad

24 March 2006

A TV ad for Coca-Cola's low-calorie Powerade Option sports drink features a race between two horse-drawn carts driven by farmers in Amish apparel - one cart loaded with ten bales of hay, the other with fifty.

The cart with fewer bales cruises to victory, inviting viewers to conclude that that Powerade Option's 10 calories are more effective than rival PepsiCo's Gatorade brand's 50 calories.

Pepsi, unamused by this inference, on Monday stormed into the Chicago District Court to file a lawsuit against Coke demanding it withdraw the ads [WAMN: 23-Mar-06].

Fumed Pepsi: "[Coke makes a] false claim that Powerade Option is superior to Gatorade, in that it provides a performance advantage while containing fewer calories."

Two days later Coke climbed down, withdrawing one version of the ad and agreeing to amend the other.

Said Gloria Garrett, Coke's wondrously-titled vice president of hydration for North America: "Our advertising will maintain the central theme of the campaign, which is that Powerade Option has fewer calories than Gatorade. We have agreed to modify the commercials to be clearer that Powerade Option has both fewer calories and less carbohydrate energy than Gatorade."

This is not the first time the competing brands have clashed over advertising claims. Last year the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau, asked to mediate between the warring titans, ruled that Coke should "clearly and conspicuously disclose that consumers will not receive the energy replacement benefits provided by Gatorade."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff