Coca-Cola Joins Exploding Soda Craze

The Coca-Cola company has unwittingly played a starring role in one of this year's biggest viral video hits--the exploding Diet Coke-Mentos clips, which show soda spurting out of bottles doctored with Mentos mints. Now, the company is formally embracing the phenomenon.

Coca-Cola has forged a deal with Fritz Grobe and Stephen Voltz, the two creators of the first Diet Coke-Mentos clip. This week, Coke unveiled its most recent "Coca-Cola Challenge," which asks consumers to submit video.

Unlike previous versions, this challenge is introduced by an exploding-soda video produced by Grobe and Voltz, who run the viral video production studio EepyBird.com. The challenge, dubbed "Poetry in Motion," calls on Coke drinkers to create interesting or entertaining videos using run-of-the-mill household objects. Coke will also host Grobe and Voltz's upcoming video on Oct. 30.

On May 31, Grobe and Voltz posted the original Diet-Coke Mentos explosion clip on video hosting site Revver. As of Tuesday, the video has been seen over 6 million times, according to Revver, and has inspired thousands of imitators. A recent YouTube search on "Diet Coke and Mentos" turned up 3,282 hits.

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Mentos' parent company, Perfetti Van Melle, was quick to capitalize on the publicity, posting the pair's video on their home page and sending them hundreds of free Mentos candies to continue producing the clips.

But beverage giant Coca-Cola appeared to remain distant from the videos until this week.

Pete Blackshaw, chief marketing officer for Nielsen//BuzzMetrics, which has been doing word-of-mouth monitoring work for Coca-Cola, said that independent viral video like EepyBird can be used as proving grounds for potential marketing efforts instead of having them professionally created by agencies. "There's going to be some models where there will be lots of room to extend the creativity," he said. "This is not an established agency, but these guys are off-the-charts creative. Marketers are going to be able to pull from a whole diversity of video."

Online public relations expert Steve Rubel said that Coca-Cola likely kept its distance for a time until the PR value of the video was proven. "They saw Mentos do it with a similar effort, and they had a chance to watch that and evaluate its success," he said.

Rubel said the move was especially significant because Coke decided to partner with an independent video producer that had essentially taken over the Coca-Cola brand. "Somebody hijacked their brand and turned it into a worldwide phenomenon," Rubel said. "It wasn't negative, but it was certainly something that probably scared them at first."

Neither Coca-Cola or EepyBird returned calls for comment.

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