When you think of Coca Cola what comes to your mind? It wouldn’t be surprising if you thought first of Coke ads. In the history of advertising perhaps no other company has had such a strong and continuous impact on society through advertising. Not only have Coke’s ads been successful at selling its soft drinks, but decade after decade Coca Cola’s ads and campaigns have influenced our very culture by making their way into the hearts and minds of the consumers.
A Brief Ad History
In the 1920s Coca Cola shifted its advertising strategy, focusing for the first time on creating brand loyalty. It began advertising the soft drink as fun and refreshing. Coke’s 1929 campaign slogan was: The Pause that Refreshes. To this day, that slogan remains number two on Advertising Age’s top 100 slogans of all the time.
How about those famous Coca Cola Santa Clause print ads? Most people probably have seen an example of such. What most people don’t realize is that our modern-day vision of Santa as a jolly old man with a white beard in a red suit and hat is to some extent a result of those Coke ads that began emerging in popular magazines in 1931. Before that, the world’s image of Santa was fragmented, with physical portrayals of the legendary holiday visitor ranging from a pixie to a leprechaun to even a frightening gnome. But Coca Cola’s long-running series of ads solidified what was becoming a common U.S. image, making our beloved Santa Clause recognizable around the world.
Those Coca Cola campaigns were probably a little before your time. but what about Coca Cola’s 1971 “Hilltop” campaign. Perhaps you remember its lyrics, “I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony. I’d like to buy the world a Coke, and keept it company.”
The song was sung by a choir of young people from all over the world, perched high on a hilltop, each holding an iconic hourglass-shaped bottle of Coke. Within months, Coca Cola and its bottlers received more than a hundred thousand letters about the ad. The ad actually received requests at radio stations; so many in fact, that a version of the song was released as a pop-music single. The jingle’s tagline, “It’s the real thing,” served as the foundation for Coke ads for years.
Still too long ago for you? Maybe you have heard of Coke’s ad showing a bruised and battered Mean Joe Green tossing his shirt to a young fan after the boy shares his Coke with the pro football player.
The ad appears consistently at the top of “Best Super Bowl Ads” lists. Or how about “Coke is it?” “Can’t beat the feeling?” certainly you would remember the jingle made famous in the 1990s, “Always Coca Cola”. And who doesn’t make some associate between the sweet, dark, bubbly beverage and polar bear? Innovative animation technology put those lovable creatures in only a handful of ads, but they are forever etched in the memories of consumers everywhere.
These are only some highlights of Coca Cola’s long advertising history, stretching back to the company’s origin in 1886. With so many hits and such a huge impact on consumers, it’s hard to imagine that the beverage giant ever gets into an advertising rut. But as the new millennium began to unfold, many considered that Coke had lost its advertising sizzle. The company was struggling to create ads that resonated with younger folks while at the same time appealing to older consumers. And the company’s ads were routinely out-pointed by those of rival Pepsi. Coca Cola needed some new advertising fizz.
Back to the Bowl
Where does a company turn when it wants to make a big ad splash? For Coca Cola, it’s thoughts turned to the marquee of all advertising events – the Super Bowl. The company had certainly had success with the ad venue before. But scoring big with a Super Bowl ad isn’t guaranteed. In fact, many cynics view the ad venue as a waste of money. One team of researchers found that average brand recall one week after the 2008 Super Bowl was an...
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