One newspaper ad in Starbucks’ first big branding campaign, which launched this week.

It’s not that Starbucks is tiny. With almost 11,500 U.S. stores, its reach begins to rival McDonald’s with about 14,000 U.S. locations.

But when it comes to advertising, Starbucks has never had to try very hard. Like Coors before it crossed the Rockies, the green mermaid from Seattle cruised for years on an element of scarcity — seriously — and elitism.

Now Starbucks is trying harder, with a brand campaign that launched this week as McDonald’s begins an ad blitz for its espresso drinks, which have been rolling out for years but finally reached more than 11,000 stores.

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Neither company will say how much it’s spending on the campaigns, but Starbucks told analysts last week that it won’t spend more on marketing that it did last year. Advertising Age used figures from TNS Media Intelligence that say the coffee company’s 2008 spend was about $26 million.

Ad Age also said McDonald’s coffee platform “is expected to receive an outpouring of more than $100 million fanned out across TV, print, radio, outdoor, internet, events, PR and sampling.”


The burger chain takes on Starbucks with coffee drinks from McCafe.

That’s a big difference, but then McDonald’s has some catching up to do in the espresso market.