Coke's 'Open Happiness' Narrowly Misses the Mark

Best Things About New Wieden Effort Are Holdovers From Previous Campaign

By Published on .

Remember "Always?"

It was the best Coca-Cola slogan ever, better even than "The pause that refreshes." It reminded you that Coke is always delicious, always refreshing, always a perfect complement to food, always at hand, always been there, always will be and always a better choice than, say, Pepsi.

Yeah, those were the days -- the good old days, the enlightened half century when folks drank sweet swill knowing what they were about, as opposed to deluding themselves about bogus elixir qualities of sports drinks and vitamin water and other liquid candy marketed as medicine.

But, as usual, we digress. The subject today is Coke's new campaign from Wieden & Kennedy, "Open Happiness." Or, as we think of it ...

... Almost.

It's almost consistent, almost cohesive, almost seductive, almost thoroughly charming. But just not quite. Furthermore, the very best things about the advertising are holdovers from the previous "Coke Side of Life" campaign:

1) the animated tag of the twirling red-and-white contour bottle and sublimation of the onscreen type into bubbles.

2) The generous use, such as in the spot called "Crave," of effervescence audio, which we have always believed to be one of the three most satisfying sounds in the world, along with children laughing and a 9mm magazine being fisted into the pistol grip.

Mind you, standing alone, the spots are mainly lovely. "Happiness Factory 3" is another cute, animated, fanciful notion of where Coke comes from. "Avatar" shows ordinary folks transforming into their online/video-game avatars, yielding a "Beauty and the Beast" moment between man and monster/total babe as they both reach for the same Coke. "Heist" is like "Snow White" in Pixar, as insects make off with a picnic Coke. Ahhh, that's sweet. Ahhh, that's refreshing. In "Swelter Stopper," two towering comic-book monsters terrorize a city, till they share a Coke truck and turn all mellow.

Got it? A Coke makes everything wonderful. That's good as far as it goes, but though the digital animation is far more sophisticated, the warmth somehow is less transcendent than the polar-bear spots of a decade ago. Worse, the feel-good effect at the moment is easily trumped by Pepsi, whose new ads are positively buoyant. Wieden's work by contrast seems somehow labored, perhaps too adorable by half.

And then there are the actual errors.

"Crave" is about a guy so thirsty for a Coke that, in his search for refreshment, he sees contour bottles everywhere. Happy mirages. Happy hallucinations. We'll buy that -- but why is the music so eerie? Kind of a buzz kill, if you ask us. As for the spot titled "Library," well, words simply fail.

It shows a couple of high-school kids in an innocent flirtation. While they're supposed to be researching their term papers, they're goofing off with drawings they've inked onto their hands. Naturally, the artwork becomes animated and before long the boy's pic of a Coke bottle is pouring happiness into the girl's pic of a contour glass.

Whoa! The first 50 seconds are fabulous, but, sorry, the denouement is either a classic metaphor for coitus or a modern metaphor for intravenous drug use -- neither of which famous pauses that refresh having any business within a mile of a Coca-Cola trademark. Are they insane?

On the plus side, the music -- "Strange Love" by the Swedish transvestite sampling artists Koop -- is absolutely fantastic. Maybe Wieden can switch it out into a recut "Crave." That would give Pepsi a run for its money. Or, anyway, almost.

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