Coca-Cola: 125 Years

Enjoy the Top 10 Coca-Cola Ads

Watch the Spots We Think Are the Best of the Best

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Coca-Cola: Santa Claus
1931 - 'SANTA CLAUS'
ILLUSTRATOR: Haddon Sundblom

Coca-Cola ad exec Archie Lee commissioned Haddon Sundblom to paint Santa Claus. The result? A big, jolly vision in red popularized the modern-day version of the holiday icon.

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1963 - 'BEACH'
CAMPAIGN: "Things Go Better With Coke"

"The campaign was extensively tested among teens against another finalist, 'The Spirit of Coke,' and won handily," said Mike McDonald, an account director with McCann at the time.

The campaign was also a milestone, in terms of its use of pop music and musical acts. Words and music for the campaign were written by McCann Creative Director Bill Backer and performed by The Limeliters.

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1971 - 'HILLTOP'
CAMPAIGN: "It's the Real Thing"
AGENCY: McCann Erickson

In January 1971, McCann Creative Director Bill Backer was on a flight to London that was delayed in Ireland overnight. The next morning, Mr. Backer observed the beleaguered passengers at an airport coffee shop laughing over bottles of Coke. "[I] began to see the familiar words, "Let's have a Coke," as ... actually a subtle way of saying, "Let's keep each other company for a little while," wrote Mr. Backer in his book, "The Care and Feeding of Ideas."

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CAMPAIGN: "Have a Coke and a Smile"
AGENCY: McCann Erickson

The Pittsburgh Steelers player and his co-star, 12-year-old Tommy Okon, captured America's heart, so much so that the ad inspired a made-for-TV movie, which aired on NBC more than two years later. The ad was filmed over three days at a stadium in New Rochelle, N.Y. Mr. Greene consumed 18 16-oz. bottles of Coke on the final day of shooting alone.

CAMPAIGN: "Catch the Wave"
AGENCY: McCann Erickson

Max Headroom, a computerized character with a synthesized voice, was originally created by Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel, London-based video producers, and intended for use in music videos. Coke enlisted him to appeal to the youth market and promote the new formulation of Coke, post New Coke.

CAMPAIGN: "Always Coca-Cola"
AGENCY: Creative Artists Agency

Freelance writer and director Ken Stewart's yellow Labrador was the inspiration for Coca-Cola's beloved polar bears. The concept eventually evolved to the idea of polar bears drinking Coke at the movies, symbolized by the aurora borealis in the spot. Using advanced computers and high-tech-graphics programs, the ad took about 12 weeks to produce.

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2006 - 'VIDEOGAME'
CAMPAIGN: "The Coke Side of Life"
AGENCY: Wieden & Kennedy

This award-winning spot, which was presented during Wieden's pitch for the Coke business in 2005, was born in an attic. "I still remember being alone in this weird, strange attic room, this attic space off of my closet. I have no idea why I was in there," said Sheena Brady, creative director at Wieden. "I was working off of this optimistic [Coke] world and thinking about what's not happy in this world, what's a little darker. [And I thought] what would happen if you put Coke into this ├╝ber-violent video-game setting?"

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CAMPAIGN: "The Coke Side of Life"
AGENCY: Wieden & Kennedy

Dropping coins into a vending machine kicks off a fantastical journey as a bottle of Coke makes its way to the consumer.

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2008 - 'IT'S MINE'
CAMPAIGN: "The Coke Side of Life"
AGENCY: Wieden & Kennedy

There wasn't always a happy ending to this Super Bowl spot featuring parade balloons. Originally, the Coke balloon hit a flag pole, leaving "Family Guy's" Stewie and Underdog empty-handed, said Hal Curtis, creative director for Coca-Cola at Wieden.

"My wife asked me how it went. I told her they loved the spot but hated the ending, and I didn't know what to do about it," he said. "My son ...goes, 'Well, what if another balloon gets the Coke?'" And the rest is history, with Mr. Curtis and his team quickly landing on Charlie Brown as the perfect character to snag the Coke in the end.

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CAMPAIGN: "Open Happiness"
AGENCY: Definition 6

The brief was to create something unexpected, relatable, emotional and watchable. It also had to be executed cheaply and go viral, without paid media. "I'll be frank: You set out to do a campaign like this, and you never know," said John Harne, executive creative director at Definition 6. Sunflowers, balloon animals, free Cokes, hot pizza and a giant sandwich all emerged from the "Happiness Machine" over the course of the stunt, filmed at St. John's University in New York.

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