Coca-Cola Does Adverts

You’d think Coca-Cola wouldn’t need to bother with adverts. Their cans and bottles of fizzy, sugar-water are already sold all over the world and being drunk in the millions, why bother with all the billboards and posters when there’s not much in the way of competition? But that’s not enough for a global, conglomerated modern-day empire, if Coca-Cola don’t continue to beam their brand at us we might briefly forget about them and buy Pepsi instead, and that would just be terrible. So here are some of the high(low)lights of their efforts to indoctrinate us to Choose Choice, Open Happiness and Drink Coca-Cola.

In Coca-Cola’s own words: ” ‘Brotherly Love’ captures the unique relationship between brothers, a universal story of love and conflict. Ultimately the younger brother finds himself without his Coca-Cola. The older brother comes to his rescue and they enjoy a special moment together.” I hadn’t realised that Coke did universal stories of love and conflict but really I’d say this is a story about bullying – the elder brother bullies his younger brother at every possible opportunity – stamping on his feet, pushing his cap down and stealing the umbrella. However, if there’s one thing he can’t stand, it’s other people bullying his younger brother when he could be. Hence, he scares them off and then makes his little brother spill his Coke down his t-shirt. So, just to clarify, this advert has nothing to do with ‘brotherly love’ but is actually about condoning bullying and imaginative ways to addict the next generation to fizzy, sugar-water.

This has to be my favourite. Stuck as we are in the gruelling reality of late capitalism, where recessions run longer and deeper, inequality rises and as it does a whole host of prejudices we thought were gone come back. Add to this the effects rampant consumerism has on the environment and we’ve got climate change, resource depletion and land grabs. Yet despite all this Coca-Cola ploughs on in selling us its sugar-water. And here’s a handy advert to remind us which ones there are (in case we’d forgotten): the original, the diet-one, the no-calories-one which is the diet-one rebranded for men (it’s black after all and has a number in the name) and the supposedly-natural-one (aka, the oxymoron-one). But it’s the message at the end “CHOOSE CHOICE” in big, bold letters which does it for me. I mean it’s bad enough that consumer capitalism resultsĀ  in so many human and environmental rights abuses but now freedom has been narrowed down to selecting one of four fizzy, sugar-water drinks. Did Emmeline Pankhurst, Martin Luther King and Ghandi really strive so hard just for us to have access to a range of soft drinks? But, worse than that, the phrase “choose choice” reveals that choice is also up for grabs, as if one day soon we won’t be able to choose at all – maybe the day when Coca-Cola instead of water is coming out of our taps whether we like it or not.

And last but by no means least it’s the Coca-Cola does Christmas advert. Coke basically invented the Santa we know and love – they changed the colour of Saint Nicholas’ outfit from green to red, they added some weight to him and put a bottle of delicious, sparkling, black gloop in his hands. And kids all over the world love him and believe in him, worshipping him almost like a deity – a false idol if ever there was one. I hate to say it but Coca Cola really are having the last laugh. Ho, ho, ho! Unless, of course, we stop buying their tasty and addictive fizzy, sugar-water.

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Suffragettes, Lipstick & High Speed Internet

Seat found, popcorn in hand, fizzy drink in the other. I was ready to enjoy Suffragette, the new movie about the women’s rights movement in the early 20th century, when Emmeline Pankhurst was rallying thousands to the cause, when Emily Davison threw herself in front of the King’s horse, and when bricks were being thrown through windows and wires were being cut because women did not have the vote. I couldn’t wait. I love feminism, I think it’s awesome, and a whole movie about it is a right treat. But before the film, the adverts…

First there was the make-up one. John Legend takes a seat at a piano and starts singing La Vie En Rose. Then in comes Julianne Moore followed closely by Naomi Watts, Blake Lively, Leila Bekhti, Eva Longoria and a whole host of famous women. They gather around the piano in their pink dresses and friendly smiles. The camera lingers briefly on their lips, hair, chins and breasts. Legend carries on singing and sometimes the women offer a word or two, you get the impression they don’t really know the lyrics. And it’s all for Color Riche Collection Exclusive, a new line of pink lipsticks from L’Oreal. The advert ends with Moore telling us “we’re worth it” and the impression I was left with is that everyone involved with the advert (hopefully) got paid a lot of money. Ok, famous women using their celebrity status to help promote a product and a brand, it’s hardly new. I mean, it’s not quite on a par with what the Suffragettes did but it’s great that these brilliant women have made it…made it onto the set of a L’Oreal advert. It’s fine, I won’t think too much about it, can’t wait for the movie.

Then it’s Heineken and Daniel Craig. James Bond nicks a speed boat to escape some bad guys except a female water skier is attached to it. Dragged along by the boat she deftly navigates waves, rocks, a wedding, a bar (she even has time to grab a tray of beers) and one of the enemy speedboats. Jumping aboard the boat she throws a top hat at the baddy currently attacking Bond. It doesn’t do much. Bond then prompts her to tie the bad guy up to a parachute who then gets dragged away. Bond then asks her if she’d like to join him for a boozy lunch. Ok, quite funny, yes the woman is unnamed and wearing a swimming costume the whole time whereas we all know Bond’s name and the men are all wearing suits but it’s a beer advert, what can you except? Maybe a little more, maybe? Anyway, nearly time for the film!

And just before it begins a truly inspiring advert, finally! A mum and her young daughter are watching clips of great women doing great things, people like Emmeline Pankhurst, Paloma Faith, Billie Holiday, Steph Houghton, and they’re all winking at the young girl inspiring her to join the movement and become awesome. And what an inspiring way to advertise…Vivid, the new high-speed internet connection service from Virgin. Right, because that’s how we celebrate feminism throughout the years by truncating the narrative and shoehorning it into an ad for broadband. And lipstick. And beer (although I doubt Heineken has even thought about co-opting feminism into their beer-selling cause).

So there was I, excited for the movie, but a little perplexed. As I watched these adverts I couldn’t help but feel like I was at the receiving end of an agenda – an agenda that appropriates amazing moments in our history/present to inspire us, not to try and replicate these events or even celebrate them, but to buy stuff. Consumer capitalism is really rather brilliant at reducing everything to an act of consumption. It also objectifies the female body and uses it as a vehicle for selling make-up and alcohol. None of this is new but it is exceedingly boring especially when it’s juxtaposed with the ensuing film, namely one about women who risked their lives and died so women could have greater equality. And the advertising agenda wasn’t even subtle. I mean lip stick and a feminist themed broadband. It’s clear these brands did some lazy ‘market research’ before crassly targeting their presumed captive audience with the ‘appropriate’ products. But the minutes before a film like Suffragette make for prime time virtual estate. So as I finished my popcorn long before the film started I couldn’t help but feel that despite all the amazing gains that have been made there is still a very long way to go. Time to smash some beer bottles, stamp on some lipsticks and cut some fibre optics.