It Isn't Reality but It's Pretty Good Advertising

By Published on .

Most Popular
Advertiser: Diet Coke
Agency: Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.
Ad Review rating: Three stars

OK, first of all, forget all the previous Diet Coke approaches. Diet Coke is not just for the taste of it. It’s not about what jerks men are. It’s not about what hunks men are. It’s not for young guys hanging around

Bob Garfield
the house when they should have a life. It’s not about club hopping to be entertained by famous dead people plus Elton John.

This time -- and possibly this time they really mean it -- Diet Coke is for young women with romance on the brain.

This advertising, from Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., is about cute, quirky guys and perfect mates and small human truths and small human untruths and vivid cinema and idealized relationships and 5,000 square foot loft apartments where nobody has any blinds to draw.

It's a place where the product isn't the hero -- only a bit player -- but nonetheless a fixture in every scene, because these people, these poster boys and girls for the Jetta Generation, have Diet Coke on hand wherever they are. It's a place where the voice-overs are done by movie stars, and the narratives are just ever so slightly overwritten, just as the film is ever so slightly over-edited, because once again the dressed-all-in-blacks have forgotten how cutting edge and stylized the real world isn’t.

Cinema verite from another universe
So, yes, director Phil Joanou’s cinema is verite, all right, but not from any universe the customers live in.

Oh, and it's pretty good advertising.

That's because women will respond to these vignettes. Women will like the idea, as

'That certain something' of love in the mud
fleshed out in the Renee Zellweger-voiced spot, that an adorable guy lives in the loft just opposite, and even though he flosses too much and isn't Ben Affleck gorgeous and is a pyro-menace in the kitchen, he does know all the words to Cheap Trick’s "I Want You to Want Me." (How does she hear him from another building? It's a mystery.)

They will respond to a husband sitting in a diner, musing -- in Matthew McConaughey’s voice -- about how sexy and beautiful his pregnant wife is. They will respond to the live-in boyfriend watching his true love at the dryer sorting her cotton underpants. He (hey, that is Ben Affleck!) fondly recalls the sexy black panties she used to wear, but takes comfort that she no longer feels the need to advertise.

Love in the mud
The target audience, starved as their real worlds are for the Perfect Relationship, will probably even respond to the spot called "The Trip," wherein narrator Ed Burns describes being late for a party. His character has made them tardy and now they’re running in a monsoon, and in her hurry the woman falls in a muddy puddle -- but instead of bitching at him about what he has wrought, just laughs, laughs, laughs and then they go home and auger.

The tagline, on this and every spot: "That certain something."

The love-in-the-mud episode, of course, is preposterously idealized and bears no relationship to any real relationship not augmented by vast quantities of not Diet Coke but marijuana. Still, it is the stuff -- that certain something -- that dreams are made of.

The success of this campaign hinges on the audience registering Diet Coke's small but prominent place in these idealized lives and their own pathetic real ones. To imagine them crediting the beverage itself as being a crucial element is a bit of the stretch, but it is no stretch at all to imagine women crediting Diet Coke for understanding their (actual and fantasy) lives.

Which is certainly something.

~ ~ ~

Britney Watch. Our daughter wears one. Really ... a watch, with a chip that shows Britney Spears performing when you press a button. Our daughter is 19.

Britney Watch II: Her twin 90-second "Joy of Pepsi" performance spots aired on the Oscars telecast, and they were extruded right out of the Pepsi-Cola/ BBDO World-wide, New York, pop-endorser machine: bouncy tune, sexy gyrations-and, in one, great visual gags. The slackjawed short-order cook with the flaming grill behind him is very, very funny. Bob Dole’s little kicker is not. (Message to Sen. Dole: Viagra ads, OK. Pepsi spot spoofing Viagra ads, marvelous. Pepsi spot saying "Easy boy" to dog -- which slyly suggests saying "down boy" to his own famously unexcitable equipment -- beyond the pale.) Nonetheless, overall, 3 stars.