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Duds Prompt Coke To Shore Up ‘MagiCan’ Promotion

May 24, 1990

ATLANTA (AP) _ Coca-Cola Co. launched a defensive advertising blitz to rescue its $100 million promotion for cans that spout prizes instead of soda.

The soft-drink maker ran full-page ads around the nation containing a detailed list of dos and don’ts for customers in search of its ″MagiCans.″

As part of a campaign announced in March, random cans of Coca-Cola Classic are equipped with mechanisms to eject cash or prize certificates when the cans are opened. The ads acknowledge that in ″a small number of instances, the prize mechanism may jam.″

″Also, the mechanism in a very small number of MagiCans detaches from inside the can and your prize won’t pop out.″

The ads feature cross-section drawings of ″properly working″ and ″malfunctioning″ cans, advising customers to ″Take A Good Look.″

MagiCans contain no soda. Instead, the prizes are stashed in vials, which are suspended in chlorinated water to give the cans the heft and gurgle of the real thing.

In addition to malfunctioning ejection systems, some of the cans have leaked water.

Randy Donaldson, a spokesman for Coca-Cola, said the company has received 22 complaints since the cans reached shelves and vending machines earlier this month. He stressed that the water in the prize cans, though it tastes bad, is harmless.

The ads warn consumers against drinking the water and include a toll-free telephone number to report bad cans.

″Listen for something jiggling inside the can. (That’s a detached mechanism - a faulty MagiCan),″ the ads say.

Coke planned to distribute a quarter-million of the prize cans through the summer. Prizes include cash - up to $200 - and certificates good for such things as tickets to theme parks and sporting events.

Emanuel Goldman, who follows the beverage industry for PaineWebber Inc. in San Francisco, said Coca-Cola is acting wisely in addressing the problem before the big soft-drink selling season starts over the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

″The key thing is to fix it early, and everyone will forget it ever happened,″ Goldman said. ″This is not the Hubble telescope. It’s not that difficult to fix.″

Donaldson said the mechanical problem has been corrected and prize cans shipped beginning this week should have no problems.

Though the trouble was detected in a relatively small number of cans, Donaldson said, ″we’re just being extraordinarily cautious. We don’t want any of our consumers to be disappointed.″ He said he did not know how much the ads cost.

The quick damage-control initiative recalled the company’s now-legendary reversal when it retired, and later then reintroduced, the classic formula of its flagship drink, Coca-Cola.

Despite the problems, the campaign has been successful with about 60,000 prize winners so far, Donaldson said.

″Our plans are to continue the promotion,″ he said. ″Obviously, we’ll continue to monitor the situation.″

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