CAA CASTS PERFECT SPELL IN LATEST COCA-COLA ADS

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One particularly clever new commercial for Coca-Cola Classic lampoons consumers' belief in subliminal advertising by unabashedly trying to induce a hypnotic trance.

"You're getting thirsty, verrrry thirsty," the monotonous voice suggests, amid such mesmerizing visuals as Coke's logo swinging on a beaded chain. "Now go to the store. Get lots of Coca-Cola. Quench your thirst. Disregard alllll other soft-drink advertising and drink onnnnly Coca-Cola. Alllllways Coca-Cola."

It's an arch and delightful play on popular perception, but wholly unnecessary. The 1994 TV campaign for Coca-Cola, produced mainly by Creative Artists Agency, Beverly Hills, Calif., is so good in so many ways that mass hypnosis would be gilding the lily. The new pool of 30 is the best Coke advertising, and maybe the best soft-drink advertising, in decades.

The collaboration of Coca-Cola Co. and CAA, having produced some startlingly good and startlingly bad results a year ago, seems to have discarded its "New Paradigm" pretensions and coalesced around the strongest elements of the introductory campaign.

The contour bottle, retro '40s logo and the irresistible jingle (which bears a suspicious resemblance to a John Hiatt tune, "She Don't Love Nobody") are leveraged to the max. The wonderfully resonant "Always Coca-Cola" slogan, instead of being a tagline in a series of thematically unrelated ministories, is now central to nearly every spot. Coke, we learn, is always a complement to food, always cool, always thirst-quenching and always a part of your life.

And always the hero. In "Seasons," one of several new animated spots, Coke bottles are portrayed as the summer fruit of a stylized cola-bearing tree. By autumn, only the caps remain, until they fall to the earth like seeds to begin the cycle anew.

This is but one of several spots that, intentionally or not, position Coca-Cola as part of the natural world, along with trees, eggs, peas, bananas, ants, the sun and, of course, polar bears. One, "Heartland," uses breathtaking painted-glass animation to depict Coke as a natural element in the quintessentially American rite of the wheat harvest. Here the jingle has been countrified to evoke a hoedown, just as it is manipulated throughout the campaign to suit the subject and imagery at hand.

Indeed, it all does seem so natural. These spots are as cohesive and integrated as the first ones were haphazard and unfocused. Yet they manage to be both contemporary and classic while addressing diverse audiences in differing language and style. One of the best, showing quaintly dated, Parker Bros.-ish characters coming alive on a computer-animated watchface to dance, cook, golf, etc., is aptly titled, "Always Time for a Coke."

Like most of the campaign, it is charming, ingenious and sharply pointed in a way that McCann-Erickson Worldwide has long been unable to accomplish. The last laugh thus belongs to exiled New Paradigmist Peter Sealey, whose audacious vision of reinventing Madison Avenue has been substantially realized, with the added benefit of some old-paradigm sell, sell, sell.

Without a single insipid lifestyle montage, and with apology to none, this campaign harnesses its powerful theme, music and iconography to illuminate brand benefits, not to mention brand equity such as no other product on earth enjoys. And around the world, people will be getting thirsty. Verrrry thirsty.

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