Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A belated thought about that Coke advertisement.

This is a thought for the fans of the Coke advertisement which ran during the Super Bowl.  You know the advertisement I'm talking about.  The "America is Beautiful" commercial. 

If you don't like that commercial because you think Super Bowl commercials should stick to bringing the funny, stick around.  We're going to have some fun on this blog.  If you don't like that commercial because Coke dared to portray people singing "America the Beautiful" in foreign languages other than English, you should probably move on. 

The commercial is just as cynical as you think it is and at the same time it's not.  It is, of course, an attempt by the Coca Cola Company to make consumers feel good about consuming their products.  They didn't spend the money they spent because they are genuinely good people.  They want more people to buy poorly-flavored sugars in fizzy water and to choose their particular formulation when they make the purchase.

On the other hand, it's not like the internationalism portrayed in the commercial is wholly foreign (hah!) to Coke.  Coke was the first Fortune 500 company to select an Hispanic person as CEO.  That person, Roberto Goizueta, aggressively focused the company on expanding internationally.  And that strategy worked spectacularly.  Goizueta's expansion led to the greatest increase in shareholder wealth in history to that point, more than US Steel, more than Exxon (at that point), more than General Motors.  If it weren't for Coke, you'd probably never have heard of Warren Buffett, whose most successful public-company investment was the one he made in the Coca Cola company What that means is that the large shareholders, much of current senior management, and the members of the board of directors all became fabulously wealthy because of the smarts of a Cuban-born guy who realized that it didn't matter what language their customers spoke. It's not like Coke made that commercial while a bunch of Klansmen stand around behind the scenes rubbing their fingers together like Montgomery Burns and laughing at the rubes they're advertising to.  They're honestly on board with racial, cultural and linguistic diversity. 

There is also a gay couple in the commercial, and Coke has a creditable record on LGBT issues.  They don't have a feel-good story like Goizueta's, but there we go.

With all that said, my main thought is this.  The commercial is an open appeal to the values of those who self-identify as "liberal."  If you were to poll self-identified liberals on on the most dire threats to the American way of life, I bet you that three of the top ten responses would be, "multi-national corporations," "high fructose corn syrup," and "carbon dioxide."  "Bottled water" would probably show up in the top 25.   That commercial was a multi-national corporation selling bottled water dressed up with high fructose corn syrup and carbon dioxide.

In other news, Mean Joe Green spent his entire career dishing out concussions.

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