Alex Bogusky Takes On Coke With 'Hilltop' Ad Spoof

Health Group Remakes Classic Commercial That Gained New Relevance on 'Mad Men'

By Published on .

Advertising Age Player

Alex Bogusky is trying to take some of the zen out of Coke's iconic "Hilltop" ad. The former CP&B exec is behind a new video by a health advocacy group that puts a depressing spin on the iconic 1971 spot. The classic ad gained new relevance when it was used as part of the plotline of the "Mad Men" finale in May -- but by luck or coincidence, the spoof was in the making before the episode aired.

While the original ad was set on a sun-swept hilltop, the spoof version shows hospital rooms and features people afflicted with hypertension, diabetes and "soda-related obesity." The video's sponsor is the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which is a frequent critic of the soft-drink industry. Mr. Bogusky, who once had Coke as a client, is listed as the executive creative director on the video. The agency is Lumenati, of Denver. Mr. Bogusky is an investor and adviser to the agency.

CSPI planned to release the video on Tuesday. A Coca-Cola spokeswoman declined to comment on Monday because the company had not yet reviewed the video.

Pepsi is also targeted in the video, which briefly shows a distorted version of the cola brand's logo that spells out obesity.

"For the past 45 years, Coca-Cola and other makers of sugar drinks have used the most sophisticated and manipulative advertising techniques to convince children and adults alike that a disease-promoting drink will make them feel warm and fuzzy inside," CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson said in a statement. "It's a multibillion-dollar brainwashing campaign designed to distract us away from our diabetes with happy thoughts. We thought it was time to change the tune."

It is not the first time that Mr. Bogusky has overseen an ad that seemingly critiques the corporate branding efforts he was once paid to create. In 2012 he was the executive creator for a CSPI video called "The Real Bears" that parodied Coke's iconic polar bears, portraying them as plagued by diabetes and other health issues.

Mr. Bogusky's wife, Ana, used Twitter to make a casting call on behalf of Lumenati well before the finale aired. CSPI spokesman Jeff Cronin confirmed that the spoof was planned before the ad took on new relevance with the Mad Men airing. "It was just dumb luck on our part," he said.

CSPI will back its new video with paid digital support on Facebook, according to a spokesman. But the organization will be hard-pressed to gain the awareness Coke won after "Hilltop" was featured on "Mad Men." There were 21,204 tweets involving Coca-Cola in the three hours following the series finale, according to digital marketing company Amobee Brand Intelligence, which in May described the free exposure as "pretty unprecedented in the history of television."

The implication on "Mad Men" was that Don Draper conceived of the spot while doing yoga on the California coast. The show's creator, Matthew Weiner, later referred to the real spot, by McCann Erickson, as "the best ad ever made."

"That ad is so much of its time, so beautiful -- I don't think it's as villainous as the snark of today thinks it is," Mr. Weiner said during a May appearance at the New York Public Library, according to the New York Times.

Most Popular