Yeah, so it's a small campaign for a marginal brand extension. Who cares? This anthem spot from Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami, for Coca-Cola Zero has still smashed all previous records for lowest GFPM-45 out of a possible 1,440-in a musical soft-drink commercial.
This refers, of course, to Grin Frames Per Minute, a metric which, in this genre, usually comes in at the maximum 1,440-which is to say, total smile-immersion. The record, like the one for infield-assists in an inning, is held by thousands but most memorably by a single spot from the sugar-water pantheon: "Hilltop" for Coca-Cola.
"I'd like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmoneeeeeee...."
(Pause for reader gagging.)
In 1971, this love fest of diversity and alleged understanding was enormously popular, treacly and naive though it was. Today, it couldn't be shot-partly because it would be would greeted with snorts of derision by just about everybody, including Barney, and partly because it's hard to get enough metal detectors and bomb-sniffing dogs to the top of a mountain.
But if the quaint sensibilities that informed "Hilltop" have long since disintegrated, the advertising techniques never quite did. Mordant wit, verite and edgy post-modernism have found their way into plenty of soft-drink commercials, but once the first music note strikes up, irony always takes a holiday. Suddenly people in the ads start smiling stupidly like campaigning congressmen or Miss Oklahoma or Mets fans caught on the JumboTron, and the GFPM's go right off the charts.
But here's the thing, the real thing: People may grin when they're on stadium TV. They don't grin when they drink soda pop. Yet the gimmick has persisted because soft-drink peddlers are convinced their product is really fun.
Which, as we have established, is idiotic. Sledding is fun. The Hokey-Pokey is arguably fun. Under the right conditions, Dilaudid is totally fun. Cola is a drink.
Hence the inestimable contribution to our culture of the miraculous "Chilltop," Crispin's zero-calorie but remarkably un-saccharine update of the 1971 classic. Same melody, similar rainbow casting, but this one set on a Philadelphia rooftop and sung by the hip/pop band G-Love & Special Sauce. The brief: Start with the sappiest jingle in history and make Coke Zero cool.
Damn, they come very close to pulling it off.
Mind you, the task was impossible. The lyric "I'd like to buy the world a Coke, and chill with it a while" speaks for itself. But they come ever so close, thanks to their innate funk and, especially, their earnest, deadpan presentation punctuated hardly at all by gratuitous toothiness. By our measure: less than two seconds of grin time in a 60-second commercial.
That is not necessarily the secret for making Coke Zero cool, but it is certainly a prerequisite, phony depictions of contrived happiness pretty much being a surefire way to alienate the target audience of irritable adolescents. This ad may or may not seduce them, but it surely gives us hope. We don't imagine seeing the slogan "Have a Coke and a Glower" anytime soon.
But we're thrilled to have our Coke Zero with a bare minimum of smiles.
Review 3 stars
Ad: Coke Zero
Agency: Crispin Porter & Bogusky