How to Drink a Coke

Anatomy of a stilted product shot.

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Coke: By the book.
Which is more un-real? The fact that Craig Kilborn is looking for a Cinderella team and ends up with Duke? Or the drink shot in every Coke commercial?

With March Madness upon us, the friendly folks at Coke reveal just how un-real it can be to execute the perfect drink shot. Here's the play-by-play of the ubiquitous, never-been-changed, totally un-real drink shot in their new Craig Kilborn spot: Craig Kilborn just happens to have three Coke bottles on his desk -- an empty one and two open ones (don't ask).

Billy Packer walks onto the set. He grabs the open bottle closest to him. Grabbing it with his left hand, he squares himself perfectly to the camera for that patented "As seen on TV and nowhere else in real life" Coke drink shot. (Unless you're Mean Joe Green, do not try this at home or anywhere else. You will be laughed at.)

Suddenly, the editor realizes there's a problem: the bottle is positioned only for a left-of-frame drink shot! (There actually are left-handed and right-handed cans for shooting Coke drink shots but we don't see cans in Coke ads anymore. Cans are only in stores.) You see, according to the Coca-Cola playbook, when a bottle is picked up and raised to one's mouth, it has to be filmed from the drinker's right side so that the logo will read from bottom to top: the logo can never seem like it's pointing to the floor or "spilling" down. Coca-Cola must read up. This is one of the reasons why there are five, count them, five cuts during the drink alone.

You may notice that Billy deftly switches hands in the first cut. He now has the bottle, logo up, in his right hand and he's ready to down that puppy!

But wait! Just as he puts the logo-correct bottle to his lips, the editor pulls the old switcheroo on us: we're back to his left side. This means that now the logo is going to read down! Somebody stop that man!

Is that also the reason there's a cut in the drink shot in Coke's recent commercial starring Penelope Cruz? Check it out for yourself.

How ironic is it that beer commercials, where they can't drink at all, come across as more real and certainly as more entertaining stories. If Coke wants to be seen as "real", maybe they should stop doing fake drink shots. We all know you're supposed to drink a Coke; we didn't all know you're supposed to chug every single one.

(Paul Cappelli is president and founder of New York-based agency The Ad Store.)

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