If you’ve been tuning in to any television programming over the past months, it’s more likely than not that you have encountered a Coke vs. Coke Zero commercial. These commercials cleverly pit representatives of Coca-Cola against Coke Zero because Coke Zero has “misappropriated” Coca-Cola’s flavor in a low-cal drink. The commercials provide entertaining theories from taste infringement to ninja-guided espionage.

For those of you that are of a certain vintage and maturity level, this may have caused flashbacks to the Spy vs. Spy comics routinely found in Mad® Magazine.  For those of you that are unfamiliar, Spy vs. Spy pitted two characters that were identical, aside from clothing color, in short strips that inevitably ended with one character besting the other. Depending on your opinions about the literary value of comic strips, these could either be viewed as mindless cartoons or a subtle commentary on mutually assured destruction.

From an advertising standpoint, I wonder whether Coke fully considered the deeper implications of pitting its products against each other. Is this going to result in undesirable consumer confusion? Is it going to cannibalize sales of regular Coke? Wouldn’t they want to be more clearly marketing this to the “diet” soda crowd? The commercials could just be seen as an entertaining way to create name recognition, but does Coke really need that? Maybe it just seemed like a good idea at the time.