Barqs takes a bite of U.S.

Where it's landed

Where it’s landed


Client: Coca-Cola Canada

Nicole DeLarzac, senior brand manager, non-cola carbonated soft drinks

Jeff Shinozaki, director

Agency: Cossette, Toronto

Lori Zinger, group account director

Mike Koe, copywriter

Lyranda Martin-Evans, art director

The Barqs story

It’s not often that a mammoth company like Coca-Cola pays attention to Canadian work, infrequent that it picks up a spot, and less common still that it replicates the in-store elements of the campaign.

But that’s been the enviable progression of the three-year-old ‘Barqs has bite’ effort.

After its first year, the TV ad – which features a door-to-door sampler who stumbles across the most, shall we say, eccentric characters – has springboarded the brand from the number-three root beer to number one in Canada, pushing aside competitors A&W and Pepsi’s Mug.

In year two, the U.S. counterparts in Atlanta caught wind of its success, says Nicole DeLarzac, group brand manager, non-cola carbonated soft drinks at Coca-Cola’s Canadian headquarters in Toronto.

For over six months, the five Canadian spots were tested in three markets to gauge which was strongest. ‘Psychic,’ featuring a terribly inept mind reader, won.

From February to May of this year the TV ad ran nationally on U.S. cable networks and as a cinema spot to reach the brand’s 12-24 target audience.

While it’s too soon to tell whether the work will drive sales in the U.S. market, Lori Zinger, group account director at Cossette Communications, says the U.S. reps are already considering the new crop of ads, which debuted here just last month.

The latest instalment has the sampler visiting an odd diplomat with an overprotective bodyguard. Zinger says the creative resonates because the characters ‘react’ (often comically) to the taste of the root beer – an approach that is quite unusual for the category.

‘The ads have created a role [for the root beer] rather than it just being a product,’ she says.

DeLarzac says the U.S. even uses the Canadian-made in-store

P-O-P treatment, the brainchild of Toronto-based agency Acuity, which involves placing doghouses of the brand’s mascot, Barqy, stuffed with 12 packs of root beer, in grocery stores.

Besides new TV commercials, up next for the brand, says DeLarzac, are two advergames based on the characters. It’s a strategy she hopes will be a virtual hit and add depth to the campaign.