COLA AD OR A RITALIN JAG?

Fast-Talking Coke Spot Is Unreal in Its Reality

By Published on .

Client: Coca-Cola Classic
Agency: Berlin Cameron/Red Cell, New York
Star Rating: 3

It's taken nearly two years, but now we finally understand what reality Coca-Cola is getting at with its "Real" campaign.

Not real ingredients, because, well, after all ...

Coke's new fast-talking 'Stories' spot.

Not real cola-ness vs. Pepsi, because 70 years have obliterated that distinction. Not real refreshment or flavor, because this campaign really doesn't mention that. In a bizarro universe that has seen both Coke and Pepsi so neglect their intrinsic qualities that advertising imagery has become their only brand attribute, Coke is claiming its ads are realler than the competition's.

And so they are.

Faux versimilitude
While BBDO continues to extrude bright, seamless plexiglas for Pepsi, Berlin Cameron's latest Coke spots have finally achieved a degree of spirited (faux) verisimilitude that actually imbues the Real Thing with the image of relevance and authenticity the brand has so long, so pitifully striven for. The gimmick is a home video, starring a bunch of high-school friends casting off their native indolence for a summer of stupid adventures.

Maybe the most remarkable thing, from the outset, is how idealized these characters aren't. The kids are slightly built, slightly attractive, slightly irresponsible and slightly obnoxious -- which is to say, ordinary teenagers. The only thing remarkable about them is the narrator's witty detachment. He's just too observant and succinct to be real. On the other hand, he's fun to listen to in a fast-talking narrative juxtaposed with charming irony to the video images of what the young kids call "tomfoolery": aborted skateboarding trips, fire-hydrant abuse, getting pulled away from the pool party by Mom, etc.

Trampolines and broken bones
"We spend the first three weeks of the summer trying to build a mini-ramp. We run out of wood and motivation almost immediately. Paul says he knows a girl who has a trampoline in her backyard, so we make that home base. Shane tries some Ninja Monkey Something or Other. Cast. Six weeks minimum. Sucks because he can't do anything even remotely cool, but Megan, quite possibly the hottest girl we'll ever know, totally digs it, so it works out great for him and makes me think that in some way he planned the whole thing. Broken arm and the fact the Paul didn't even know the girl with the trampoline forces us to relocate. ..."

Whoa. Cut back on the Ritalin; this may be the most wordy 60 seconds ever filmed. But it does mainly ring true. Maybe, in the tradition of summer soft-drink spots, the joie de vivre is a little much. (Aren't actual teenagers a little more listless and sullen?) And maybe the ever-presence of contoured cola bottles is a bit exaggerated. But at least the exposures are glancing and distant, making the advertised product look like a natural part of the summer environment.

Manufacturered reality
The key is whether this adult-manufactured version of high-school reality will trigger adolescents' uncanny knack for knowing when they're being pandered to. We think not, because its essential wit will flatter kids into imagining themselves as hyperkinetically droll as the narrator.

The only other question is whether the ads' connection with the audience will trigger a corresponding connection with the advertiser. Maybe. Where once the job was to communicate "cool, crisp and refreshing," nowadays these people will be real satisfied with simply cool.

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