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Cool Pick Hotel

The Site that Refreshes

Cool Pick Hotel Written by Amanda Cohen

Children of the '70s remember the Cola Wars as the promotional furor between pop icons Coke and Pepsi, fought on the battlefields of taste tests and image campaigns. Children of the '80s learned about the Cola Wars from a lyric in a Billy Joel song.

Here in the '90s, the Cola Wars rage on in cyberspace. The home pages of the giants of the cola industry compete perpetually via super-snazzy web pages that are actually mega-commercials thinly veiled by entertainment.

The Coca-Cola Company

No, I'm not choosing sides by listing Coke first. I'm just going alphabetically. The Coca-Cola page starts with a different section every time you go there. The first time I visited, it opened at the "Trading Post" page with an image of a shopping cart balanced by a scrawled note refuting what we already suspected -- this not just is a page to make you "buy stuff."

It's a good connection if you want to buy products that advertise Coke, but this page offers more than the stuff that Coke currently sells as merchandise. The Trading Post connects collectors all over the net, promising "If it's red and white, you're likely to find it in here somewhere."

An extensive list of classified ads posts buyers and sellers for rarities like bottles imprinted for special events and a vending machine faceplate featuring Nascar driver Jeff Gordon. One trader is offering an unopened glass bottle circa 1970, full of the "Coke product" with a crumpled cigarette box clearly visible inside. I'm surprised Pepsi hasn't made an offer for that gem.

Amid trivia and sports and museum images, Coke has slipped in a little business such as stock updates and a mission statement, but good luck finding it on the first try. Everything on the page is linked by icons whose meanings are not inherently obvious. I clicked on the picture of the chicken head and found myself playing a musical game with notes suggesting the timbre of blowing into Coke bottles (Shockwave required).

Pepsi Cola

After Coke's orderly listing and questionable but simplistic icons, The Pepsi World page is a slam in the monitor. The opening page gives you the option of a Shockwave version, but the regular version loads slowly even at 28.8, and anyway you get Shockwave ad nauseum on the rest of the page.

Once inside the Pepsi World, there is a wonderful graphic of a fantastical cityscape featuring the different places to go, such as Cloud 9, Backstreet and La La Land. Like the Coke page, it's not clear what these pages could mean, but in this case the mystery beckons more than it confuses.

I went to La La Land and chose the Limo option. I found myself in the back seat of a limo, complete with a television. At first, I thought my speakers had fuzzed out on me, but it turned out that the TV was switching channels and I was hearing the static. Too real.

Each sub-page uses frames sized to some monitor width other than mine, but the graphics are sophisticated and use limited sound and animation. In the Limo, I was offered movie clips to view. If I'd felt like waiting 15 minutes to download, I could have watched a clip from "Mars Attacks."

Realizing I was once again surrounded by pure marketing, I backed up and tried Cloud 9. It appeared to be some kind of cyberpunk museum. Very spooky music started up, but the mood was destroyed by a dialogue box warning that Shockwave was having some difficulties with some of the images. Cloud 9 has more doors and corridors to explore than the entire Coke page, but you'll probably get sick of the two-chord music before you see them all.

Other pages hinted at contests and chat rooms, but darned if I could find them. Half the fun of Pepsi World is supposed to be finding your way around. The image they're going for is "wicked cool," and what's cooler than showing your friends you know your way around a bizarre site like Pepsi World? Apparently you have to register at the Drop Zone to go to the Comm-Link. Stuff like that.

Perhaps these cola sites would look better to me if I were hopped up on caffeine. Knowing that there's more to life than Coke and Pepsi, I sought alternatives.

Virtual Refreshments

Ah, thirst quenched. This page is an even-handed tribute to the rest of the soft-drink industry, including Moxie, Mr. Pibb, Royal Crown and substance that got most of us through college, Jolt Cola. Before I went there, I had no idea Jolt had a snowboard division.

Thanks to cross-promotion and marketing, it seems you just can't have a good old fashioned soda anymore.

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