LONDON, April 2 -- The never-ending 'cola wars' took on a distinctive blue hue Tuesday as soft drink giant Pepsi Cola launched a multi-million dollar advertising campaign to introduce its new blue packaging and perhaps leave rival Coca-Cola red-faced in the process. The European kickoff to the campaign, which cost over 300 million pounds ($456 million), saw an Air France Concorde spray-painted blue, a leading tabloid newspaper printed on blue paper and posters showing blue strawberries and bottles of blue tomato ketchup on the London Underground. Jim Lawrence, president of Pepsi Asia, Middle East and Africa, told United Press International the launch was the first step in a two-year campaign to totally revamp Pepsi's image across the world. 'We're gonna paint the whole globe blue in the years to come!' Lawrence said. 'By our 100th anniversary in 1998 we will have a new blue image, but it will take a while.' Lawrence said blue was chosen after extensive market research, some of it in Bahrain, which showed that 'blue means new, exciting, refreshing.' 'If you look at the three colors traditionally associated with Pepsi, white doesn't mean much and red is used by our main competitor,' he said, referring to Coca-Cola's mainly red cans. Pepsi unveiled the repainted Concorde to journalists in a lavish ceremony at London's Gatwick Airport, an event graced by tennis star Andre Agassi and supermodel Cindy Crawford. The word 'Pepsi' was painted in white on the supersonic airliner's blue fuselage and tail-fin, and in blue on the white wings.
But Concorde's new paint job covered its protective white coating, meaning it can fly at supersonic speeds for only a short time, Air France said. After London, the supersonic liner will jet off on a promotional tour of European and Middle East cities before returning to Paris in mid- April, when it will be stripped of the blue and returned to Air France service. In another part of Pepsi's lavish publicity stunt, the Daily Mirror, Britain's second-most popular daily tabloid, was printed on blue paper and offered readers a free can of Pepsi in the new color. 'The Daily Mirror and Pepsi-Cola are two of the most famous brand names in the country,' said Mirror editor Piers Morgan. 'I'm delighted that we've teamed up for the biggest and most exciting promotion in the newspaper industry.' But the Mirror's main rival, the Sun, dismissed the Pepsi-Mirror campaign as a 'flop,' saying: 'A failing newspaper turned all its pages blue for the campaign -- but it has so few readers hardly anyone will see it.' The two other leading cola manufacturers also hit back at the Pepsi 'blue' campaign. A television advertisement for market-leader Coca- Cola extolled red as 'the color of passion.' And newcomer Virgin Cola ran April Fools' Day advertisements in the Sun, boasting of new cans that would turn blue when the drink passed its sell-by date. 'Virgin strongly advises its customers to avoid ALL blue cans of cola,' the advertisement said, in a blunt reference to Pepsi. 'They are clearly out of date.'