Ads in the Porter Square T stop in Cambridge play up Diet Coke's healthful and refreshing qualities March 17, 2007. (Photo: Marc Levy)

Ads in the Porter Square T stop in Cambridge play up Diet Coke’s healthful and refreshing qualities March 17, 2007. (Photo: Marc Levy)

The Diet Coke ads in the Porter Square T stop — featuring cans decorated or arranged to suggest when they should be enjoyed — have been bothering me for weeks.

Yoga class is one suggestion, illustrated with an upside-down can. Morning is another, with a Starbucks-style sleeve added, implying the drink is like a hot cup of coffee and your hand needs protection while holding it.

Drinking Diet Coke in the morning still has a taint of ill health to it, unlike coffee, and it’s hard to reconcile the pure image of yoga with that of the dark, bubbly, excessively sweet and possibly cancerous cola. (I say all this as a fan; Diet Coke is my drink of choice, in all its varieties.) The ads are also odd because the Coca-Cola Co. is only weeks away from releasing Diet Coke Plus, which adds vitamins and minerals but still contains no calories, to an increasingly health-conscious world. Pushing an image of Diet Coke as healthful and wholesome could obscure the message of Diet Coke Plus.

But that’s the most that can be said about the campaign, which seems to be either minuscule or unfairly ignored. Some poking around the Internet found no buzz (or, I suppose, outrage) about it, or even media recognition. My understanding is that the international Weiden + Kennedy agency is handling Diet Coke advertising, but all the talk is about its television ads, not cheap posters thrown up for the public transportation crowd.

I’m left with my own take: The ads can’t possibly be effective. Yoga culture is a pure one, and its drink of choice is water. And coffee drinkers are not going to swap a hot and hearty breakfast drink for one intended to be ice cold and effervescent. The cultures arehermetic, impermeable — making the ads misguided and mystifying, like suggesting comic books to opera lovers or a cheese plate to people used to having a heaping hot fudge sundae for dessert. Different worlds.

This isn’t the only failed print campaign out there. I agree with Sabine’s blog, Sidetracked …, that Special K has a loser up as well.

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