Finally, a spot that convinces you to have a Coke and a smile

By Published on .

Are you sitting down?

Maybe you'd better sit down and take a few slow, deep breaths, because this is staggering.


Coca-Cola has an excellent commercial. From McCann-Erickson, New York.

(We'll wait while you gather yourselves.)

The spot's not going to be a Cannes winner, or an anything-gold winner. It will very likely, however, be a sales winner, because it does something that almost no soft-drink advertising ever bothers to do. It makes you thirsty for the product. It makes Coca-Cola look delicious, refreshing, contemporary, classic and actually beautiful.

Imagine that. No jokes. No vertiginous photography. No kids on street luges. No wild life. No wildlife. No grinning ethnic actors trying to look gently urban. Instead, McCann has given us a fun exercise in sound design and iconography. It's a little bit digital, a little quaint, a little hip-hop, a little nostalgic and a lot enticing from beginning to end.

The spot is called "Opus" (which is pretty much like titling it "Commercial," but never mind that), and it is irresistible from the first tight close-up of a Coke can slightly submerged in ice cubes. The cubes distort, magnify and brighten the white-on-red logotype for an effect that is ... well ... cool.

What follows is a series of images, harvested from a century of Coca-Cola iconography, cut together atop a percussive, syncopated half-hip-hop, half-techno sound track. The sound is all sampled from real, Coke-swilling life: a can being popped open, the distinctive whisper of escaping bubbles, the glug-glug of the pour, ice clinking cheerfully in a glass and, of course, a human "ahhhh." The finished track sounds like a soda jerk's version of "Stomp."

So it's suitably contemporary, but it's also timeless, because the component sounds will never be dated, and the component images are so rooted in Coke tradition. The red-and-white color scheme, the typescript, the trademark ribbon, the contour bottle and glass, the old-fashioned bottle openers and, naturally, the bubbly brown nectar itself, so fetchingly captured in extreme close-up.

Yeah, it's just cola, but here it looks like the elixir of life. Or, anyway, the elixir of sweet refreshment.

The spot isn't perfect. The brief vocal flourish at the end, a sort of Whitney Houston-esque deployment of R&B vocal acrobatics to iterate the brand name, is quite forgettable. (O, for "Always" and the wonderful jingle that went with it.) Also, some of the visuals, in their attempt to be hip, are just apt to make you roll your eyes. When the bottle cap is folded into a toothy smile, that's clever and cute; when two caps are animated like a rap deejay's twin turntables and twisted counterclockwise for that wheeirrp wheeirrp sound, it's a little embarrassing.

Pentagon reporter: Is it possible the U.S. will attack Iraq without help from our Allies?

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld: Yo, yo. I'm down with that.

That kind of embarrassing. Sometimes you don't have to be self-consciously youthful. Sometimes you need only be yourself. For instance, in anticipation of next year's revival of the familiar Coke-can sublogo, a twisted ribbon materializes in the spot several times in graphically clever ways.

This will not be the detail that reverses the brand's fortunes, but-like the rest of the commercial-it is at least resonant and dynamic. Which is something Coke advertising hasn't been for a very long time.

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